Hall & Oates Suing Breakfast Company Over Haulin' Oats Granola… And For A Pretty Good Reason

from the under-oats dept

As someone with only a mild and very uneducated interest in music, I am of course a huge fan of the band Hall & Oates. Private eyes, man, they’re watching you, and all that. Hall & Oates, can apparently get very unhappy when things are named after them, as we saw when a bunch of drunken weirdos decided to name a SuperPAC after the band. The band, of course, couldn’t go for that and got them to shut the whole thing down. And, now, according to the Guardian, the famed rocking duo are going one-on-one with the most unlikely foe: granola. Cue outrage about rockers feeling entitled:

Rather than being flattered by the promise of rolled oats and maple syrup mix that, Early Bird insists, is “perfect by itself or as the base for a breakfast parfait creation”, Daryl Hall and John Oates claim “the name and mark Haulin’ Oats is an obvious play upon Plaintiff’s well-known Hall & Oates mark, and was selected by defendant in an effort to trade off of the fame and notoriety associated with the artist’s and plaintiff’s well-known marks.”

The pair have brought the case in the Brooklyn federal court, where they claim the food company have infringed their trademark with a “phonetic play on Daryl Hall and John Oates’ well-known brand name”.

Now, if you hadn’t noticed, two bandmates from the 80’s and a freaking granola company probably aren’t in the same industries, aren’t competing with one another, and customers won’t be confused at all into thinking a granola parfait is either Daryl or John, their personalities notwithstanding. So it seems like this should be tossed out, right? Well, maybe not.

Deep within the lawsuit (but not in the Guardian article linked above) is another bizarre tidbit. Apparently, a few years ago, someone else registered a “Haulin’ Oats” trademark and started selling oatmeal with that brand. Rather than freak out and sue, representatives for Daryl and John resolved the whole thing amicably, with the other company agreeing to assign the trademark to the rockers and continue to sell their Haulin’ Oats oatmeal — in exchange for a royalty based on sales. You can see that trademark here. As Hall & Oates note in their lawsuit:

Plaintiff is the owner, via assignment, of the mark HAULIN? OATS that is used in connection with the sale of oatmeal and the provision of food delivery services. Plaintiff is the owner of United States Trademark and Service Mark Reg. No. 4,345,444 for the mark HAULIN? OATS in International Class 30 for oatmeal and in International Class 39 for food delivery, which mark has been in use since March 1, 2012.

And here’s how it all came about:

In 2014, Plaintiff became aware that an entity named Haulin? Oats, a partnership organized under the laws of California and based in Nashville, Tennessee, was also utilizing the mark HAULIN? OATS in connection with the sale of oatmeal and the provision of food delivery services.

Thereafter, Plaintiff and Haulin? Oats entered into a business relationship whereby Haulin? Oats assigned to Plaintiff its trademark and service mark rights in and to the mark HAULIN? OATS (including the United States Trademark and Service Mark Registration identified above) and Plaintiff granted a royalty-based license back to Haulin? Oats.

Based on that, the lawsuit actually makes a lot of sense — though you wouldn’t get any of that from the Guardian’s coverage.

There are some bizarre parts in the lawsuit, such as Hall & Oates arguing that because they once put oats on an album cover there might be confusion:

That seems difficult to take seriously. But, rather than this just being a case of the rockers freaking out over someone making a play on their name (as implied in the Guardian piece), this actually has a legitimate basis: two different companies came up with the same play on the duo’s name, and the rockers actually worked out a reasonable deal with the first, and now that they own the trademark, they’re the ones who have to file against the other company using the same name.

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Comments on “Hall & Oates Suing Breakfast Company Over Haulin' Oats Granola… And For A Pretty Good Reason”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to go after this company, since they have a food trademark – but they only HAVE the food trademark in the first place because they entered into an agreement with that first company. And if here it would have been ridiculous to go after the company WITHOUT this other trademark, then it was ridiculous to go after the first company in the first place. Even if it was settled out of court.

5UpMushroom (profile) says:

I’m generally 100% in agreement with the folks that get upset when a big company rolls over a smaller one in a different market with a team of lawyers at the wheel, but in this case, even if they didn’t own the “Haulin’ Oats” trademark, it seems perfectly reasonable to go after the little guy. I would feel the same if a clothing company came out with “Lady Gagaloshes” or if Mcdonalds decided to rename their Big Mac “Notorious B.I.G Mac”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If the trademark didn’t already exist I would be against Hall & Oats. First I have never heard of Hall & Oats, and second Haulin’ Oats sides exactly like granola or something similar. The first thing that came to my mind when I read the title of the company was a wheelbarrow full of oats being hauled into a barn. I believe your examples are poor because you chose a famous name and tried to convert it to a product. To me, Haulin’ Oats looks like a product and the Musicians have a similar name.

5upmushroom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

i don’t know… this sounds an awful lot like the very famous “I’m a kid so I’ve never heard of Elvis Parsely or whatever his name is” strategy. I don’t listen to Hall and Oates and I couldn’t name a single song of theirs, but it’s not as if they are some second rate act. It’s pretty much a guarantee that the Oat mfg naming their product know exactly who they are and fashioned their product’s name after them.

I agree though, it does seem fishy if you don’t know who they are. The trouble is that most everyone knows who they are, outside of your group of friends. Ask someone over the age of 30.

Also… really? You’ve never heard of them? The bad hair, the bushy mustache? It’s like classic late 70s and early 80s bad fashion.

Anonymous Coward says:

How many generations of humans have to be born and die before this particular duo and their estate cease their extortion racket?

I’m pretty sure my adult kids have never heard of these two has-beens.

Thank Osiris the Pharaohs never thought of this. If everyone did it we would have run out of words we could use without being sued about a thousand years ago.

Cheryl says:

not so cut and dried

Well in this case, “Haulin’ Oats” refers to the more crass “Haulin’ ass”. Not meant to tie in with the overly sensitive 80’s band, though their ego seems to think so. Also, this granola company has used this name for many years. The aging rock duo only recently acquired the mark. Probably in an effort to stop the granola sales. Just my take on it.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Trademarks for Nasty Food.

I don’t know if this is a fundamental truth, but you would have to pay me to eat that kind of breakfast. A decent sort of light breakfast would be a “cafe complete,” more or less. Coffee, according to your preferred method; orange juice from the refrigerator; some kind of fresh roll, even if it’s only a hot dog bun, toasted in the toaster oven; and a jar of marmalade or raspberry jam, likewise kept in the refrigerator. Cheap, tasty, fast to prepare, and not a trademark in the thing. If you’re stopping by a decent convenience store, on your way to work, you might expect to get some fresh fruit for a couple of dollars. An apple, an orange, a banana, or a cup full of grades or cherries. Good food is almost always generic, and, far from being driven by trademarks, it is named by Department of Agriculture nomenclature.

If you want to go up a notch, there is the famous “Kibbutz Breakfast,” in which all food groups are represented.


The mere fact of something being effectually trade-markable is a point against it.

OGquaker (profile) says:

Far more ass's than horses

I call H.S.
You can kill your horse with to rich a diet; thus the phrase ‘feeling his oats’.
Horses were the transportation of my fathers childhood, thus the term ‘teamster’. How the fringing can these music losers ever hold on to a trademark consisting of two words from common speech? I guess Americans haven’t pulled wagons in commercial use for a requisite three years.
Just insert ‘hauling oats’ into Google’® https://books.google.com/ngrams/

Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Geigner, maybe you should look into schooling Techdirt contributor Tim Cushing on intellectual property

Glad that the author of THIS Techdirt article appreciates the foul committed by the infringers, as opposed to Tim Cushing in his veritable hit-piece against Don Henley personally in the Techdirt article “Don Henley Sues Clothing Retailer Over Its Use Of Common English Words” where the infringer marketed shirts called “Henleys” with a single ad that reads, “DON A HENLEY and TAKE IT EASY.” For the younger folks, “Take It Easy” was a big hit for The Eagles (of which Don Henley was a member) back in the day.

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