How a Real Quaker Perfectly Shut Down an Overzealous Quaker Oats Lawyer

Getty Images
Getty Images

The folks at Quaker Oats are very fond of their brand. On their website, they proudly claim the "Quaker Man" mascot, registered in 1877, was the first-ever registered trademark for a breakfast product. Inside the Quaker Oats Company, he's known affectionately as "Larry" (though evidence suggests he's based on William Penn), and the cartoon Quaker even underwent a makeover recently to keep him "fresh and innovative" for younger consumers.

Despite using the Quaker name and logo because it is a "symbol of good quality and honest value," the Quaker Oats Company has never had any official ties with the Religious Society of Friends (a.k.a. Quakers). While this has proven to be mildly frustrating for some in the religious group, the peace-loving Quakers aren't a litigious bunch (early American Quakers in Pennsylvania were warned against settling disputes in courts), and they have gone about their lives without lodging any official legal complaints against the company (which is now owned by PepsiCo).

The massive oatmeal conglomerate that uses the Quakers' name, however, has not been hesitant to threaten legal action, as evidenced by the following exchange between Quaker Oats' counsel and a member of the Orange County Religious Society of Friends. The lawyer's complaint was meant to scare the group from using the company's cherished legal trademark, a tactic that would have proven more effective if it weren't wholly based on a reading mistake.

The response, which is published on the Southern California group's website under the headline "Quaker Oats threatens to sue us," is a great lesson on how to smoothly brush off an overzealous, "amicable" request with hilarious verve:

Dear Mr. William Lovett:
I am the attorney at the Quaker Oats Company responsible for trademark matters. As you probably know, our company manufactures numerous food products, the most famous of which is oatmeal. In addition to having used the Quaker Oats name as our company name for close to 100 years, we have registered the Quaker name as a trademark.

It was therefore quite a surprise to discover that you are operating a business under the name "Quaker Oats Christmas Tree Farm." Your use of our trademark is likely to mislead consumers into believing that your business is associated with the Quaker Oats Company. It is also likely to weaken our very strong trademark. In light of the foregoing, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of the "Quaker Oats" name … While we would like to settle this matter amicably, we will take all steps which are necessary and appropriate to protect our name.

Sincerely
Janet L. Silverberg, counsel

Dear Janet Silverberg:
My breakfast this morning—rolled oats by the way—was interrupted by the arrival of your letter via FedEx, which was delivered to us despite the fact that you have misspelled our company name which is Quaker OAKS Christmas Tree Farm. Our farm was so named because religious services were held outdoors on this farm under a great oak tree until about ten years ago when we were able to move into our new Meetinghouse on another corner of our farm.
Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers. We trace our Quaker ancestors back 320 years and they were mostly farmers, but I don’t know how many of them grew oats for your company. My guess is that you may be selling far more Lutheran oats, Methodist oats, or maybe atheist oats. Could your company be guilty of product source misrepresentation?

We don’t know why you choose to associate your commercial products with our faith, but we supposed you feel there is some marketing value from it. If you were selling machine guns, roulette wheels or some other product offensive to our Quaker faith, we would be upset by the association, but since we find your products wholesome and enjoyable, we consider your use of our name a compliment. We invite you to visit our farm to verify that we are indeed Quaker Oaks Christmas Tree Farm. If you come in December, we’d be happy to sell you a tree!

Sincerely,
William Lovett, 
Visalia, California

We reached out to the Quaker Oats Company about the veracity of this exchange. "This letter predates me," their representative said in an email, "but from what I can gather the letter is nearly 15 years old."

[h/t: Steve Silberman]

5 Painless Facts About Operation

Hasbro via Amazon
Hasbro via Amazon

For more than 50 years, players have had fun practicing medicine without a license in Operation. The popular tabletop game tasks amateur surgeons with extracting game pieces—foreign objects and body parts—using tweezers without slipping and activating a buzzer that lights up the patient’s nose. (This procedure, which looks to deprive the man of all his important innards, is seemingly performed without anesthesia.) Check out some facts on the game’s history, including its more recent ailments and how it inspired a real-life operation.

1. Operation started as a college project.

John Spinello was an industrial design student at the University of Illinois in the early 1960s. In class one day, he was instructed by his professor to design a game or toy. Remembering an ill-advised moment when he had stuck his finger into a light socket as a child, Spinello came up with a box that had a mild electrical current created by one positive and one negative plate a quarter-inch apart. When players tried to guide a probe through the box’s grooves, they had to be careful not to touch the sides. If they did, the probe would complete the circuit and they’d activate a buzzer.

The game was a hit with Spinello’s fellow students, and Spinello decided to show it to his godfather, Sam Cottone, who worked at a toy design firm named Marvin Glass and Associates. Marvin Glass loved the game and paid Spinello $500 (the equivalent of a little more than $4000 today) for the rights, as well as a promise of a job upon his graduation in 1965. Spinello got the money but no job—not right away, anyway. He finally joined at the company in 1976.

2. Operation was originally named Death Valley.

Spinello had created an intriguing idea for a buzzer-based game, but initially, there was no clear premise. Cottone suggested the box and probe take on a desert theme, where players would extract water from holes in the ground. The working title was Death Valley. When Milton Bradley bought the game rights from Marvin Glass and Associates, one of their designers, Jim O’Connor, suggested they switch from a probe to a pair of tweezers in order to actually extract small items from the holes. The setting was changed from a desert to an operating theater, and Operation was released in 1965.

3. Cavity Sam got a new diagnosis in 2004.

For decades, the various ailments of Cavity Sam—a funny bone, a broken heart, etc.—remained unchanged. In 2004, Hasbro introduced the first addition to his laundry list of complaints with a diagnosis of Brain Freeze, represented by an ice cream cone waiting for extraction from his head. Fans of the game were able to vote online for Sam's first new ailment: Brain Freeze beat out Growling Stomach and Tennis Elbow with 54 percent of the vote. Later versions have added Burp Bubbles and flatulent sound effects for an ailment dubbed Toxic Gas. Hasbro has also offered licensed versions of the game, including boards based on the Toy Story and Shrek franchises.

4. The inventor of Operation didn’t make any money off Operation.

In 2014, word circulated that Spinello was in need of oral surgery that would cost around $25,000. Because he had sold the rights to Operation for just $500, he had not received any royalties from sales of the game. Fortunately, a round of crowdfunding allowed him to get the procedure he needed. Hasbro, which bought Milton Bradley, also donated to the effort by buying Spinello’s original prototype.

5. Operation inspired a real-life operation that has helped thousands of people.

Surgeon Andrew Goldstone was a fan of Operation as a child. When he got older, he took the game’s premise to heart. Goldstone noticed that thyroid surgeries were risky due to the thyroid’s proximity to the nerves of the vocal cords. A small slip could damage the cords, causing hoarseness or airway obstruction. Goldstone thought surgeons should have a buzzer similar to the one in the game that alerted them when they got too close. He applied an electrode to the airway tube used during general anesthesia. If a surgeon touched the nerves of the vocal cords with a probe, a signal would pass to the electrode and a buzzer would sound. Goldstone sold the technology back in 1991. It’s been used in thousands of thyroid surgeries since. Unfortunately, the patient’s nose does not light up.

You Can Pay to Cuddle Cows at This New York Farm

Михаил Руденко/iStock via Getty Images
Михаил Руденко/iStock via Getty Images

Cuddling offers proven health benefits: Snuggling up with something (or someone) warm releases "cuddle hormones" that reduce stress and boost your overall sense of wellbeing. But you don't necessarily need to find a human partner to reap these rewards. At the Mountain Horse Farm in Naples, New York, you can pay $75 to cuddle with cows for an hour, ABC News reports.

The cattle at this farm and bed and breakfast have been available for guests to hug since last spring. Originally, the farm only offered horse therapy, and then owner Suzanne Vullers realized that cows had something to contribute as well. Unlike horses, cows spend a lot of their days lying down. Their gentle, relaxed nature makes them the perfect cuddle companions.


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For $75, up to two people can hang out in the pasture for an hour and cuddle any cows that are willing. The Mountain Horse Farm emphasizes that it's not a petting zoo, and cows get to choose whether or not they want to get up close and personal with strangers. Visitors are shown how to best approach and interact with the cows before their snuggle session begins.

Offering unique experiences with livestock is an increasingly popular way for farms to make extra cash. Goat yoga has become mainstream around the U.S., and some farms have even organized alpaca dance classes.

To sign up for a cow-cuddling experience, you can book a session online.


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[h/t ABC News]

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