Quaker Oats sends cease/desist to actual Quakers

Making the rounds, on Mental Floss and elsewhere, a story of how an overzealous lawyer for the Quaker Oats company sent a cease/desist letter to the Quaker Oaks (that’s “Oaks”) Christmas Tree Farm in Visalia, California, led by actual members of the Society of Friends and named after the tree under which religious services had been held for a time. The letter provoked this amusing and not un-peaceful response from William Lovett (“Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers.”)

While the Deseret News sets the tale in 2012, it seems to have been in circulation longer than that, as seen in this 2006 posting. But since names in the story, including that of a lawyer for the food company, do check out as names of real persons, my guess is that the story is genuine.


  • I am reminded of a teeny gas station that attracted lawsuits from two major Fortune 500 companies back in the 1980s, for naming itself Exxaco.

  • Since the Quaker Oaks Christmas Tree Farm is a real enterprise, and early Internet accounts of this were in “humor” pages, why not contact the Quaker Oaks Christmas Tree Farm to confirm this is a true story before publishing it?

    • Basically, because 1) the person described as signing the response letter, William Lovett, is identified today as the director of the Quaker farm in Visalia on its website; 2) the name of the lawyer involved on the opposite side can be independently verified from internet records as a trademark lawyer who has represented Quaker Oats; 3) neither of these persons, nor anyone else so far as I can tell, has used the intervening decade to cast doubt on the letter’s or incident’s veracity; 4) its inclusion on a thread about Quaker humor indicates that someone thought it was funny, not that someone made it up. But if you do decide to pursue the trail to verify the story with the reported participants, please let us know what you find.

      • Will do! đŸ™‚
        I agree it probably reflects an actual correspondence triggered by an innocent error by the Quaker Oats company legal department (that was dropped as soon as they realized the difference in spelling), but I figure it’s always best journalistic procedure to positively confirm a story before publishing when it’s possible to do so.

        • Why? Neither the New York Times or the Washington Post follows that procedure. Aren’t they the Leaders of the pack?

          • So rather than follow the leader, why not set a new standard of integrity and become a leader worth following?

  • Eric, that’s why people hate lawyers.

  • Too good to check?

  • If one of my associates made that sort of mistake they would be terminated.

  • A lot of people hate lawyers. I know that. The truth is slightly (only slightly) different. Lawyers are a good thing. In a lot of very necessary ways they do well for our society. The real problem comes in two separate parts. 1) The better paid they are the more likely they are to be a part of the problem. 2) If we disbarred half of our lawyers in our nation this year we would not have any shortage of lawyers.

    • There’s an old joke about a lawyer that was going broke in a small town, because no was was willing to sue their neighbors. He posted a want ad in a nearby city’s newspaper. “Wanted: Attorney to come to Smallville. Not enough work for one attorney. Plenty for two.”

  • Similar story from Great Britain in the 1990s, where a woman named MacDonald opened up a restaurant named MacDonald’s. She promptly heard from lawyers from the Arches demanding she rename her restaurant.

    In response, the UK HQ was sent a messenger in full regalia from the MacDonald of MacDonald, Laird of Clan MacDonald, who basically told them: “No, Sassenach, WE had the name first, and if you don’t go away, you’ll be paying us.”

    MickeyDs decided discretion was the better part of valor…..

    • I remember reading about this. It’s just as awesome the second time around ?

  • Back in the 1960s, when light beers became trendy, one brewery brought out a beer named “Lite.” They were hit by a cease-and-desist order from a detergent manufacturer that had a product named “Lite,” a well-established trademark. The parties took it to court, where the judge ruled that the difference between the two product would ensure that no buyer could possibly confuse the two, and the detergent company lost the suit.

    A couple of weeks later the detergent company took out large newspaper ads that said …


    The beer company paid the detergent company a hefty sum to stop running the ads.

  • Reminds me of the time in the mid ’70s that a saloon opened across the street from the Bank of America’s headquarters in San Francisco, with the blue and red sign “Bar of America”. They did not last too long.