Yogurt Company Feeling Its Oats


Chobani, the largest yogurt brand in the country, launched a three-day a three-day promotion on Tuesday at Grand Central Station a day after the New York Times reported on a trademark lawsuit in which the company is accused of stealing marketing ideas.

The plaintiff, Dov Seidman, is a best-selling author and the founder and CEO of LRN, a firm that helps companies to develop ethical standards.

Chobani reps, distributing free oats to commuters passing by Vanderbilt Hall from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., in exchange of other “unhealthy” or “unsatisfying” breakfast items, were close-mouthed on the controversy.

In 2011, Seidman published a book titled “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything” and forwarded by former President Bill Clinton, in which he explain his idea of how a company can be successful and behave morally at the same time.

Chobani, the defendant, has recently undertaken an advertising campaign sporting the headline “How Matters” to signal the quality of its product, with an emphasis on the way it is produced.

Seidman accused the Greek yogurt manufacturer of stealing what he claims to be his personal concept of “How” for the yogurt’s ad campaign.

Stories of the legal skirmish over the three-letter adverb —or noun, as it is used by both Chobani and LRN, appeared on several newspapers in June.

But only after the Times published a cover story on Monday about the trademark lawsuit, Chobani decided to launch its promotional event at Grand Central.

The Chobani staffers gave passers-by brand new oats, while reciting their scripts about the nutritional marvellousness of the product.

Scheduled the day after the story appeared on the Times, surmises spraked speculation that Chobani might be using the event to distract the public from the pending trademark lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Chobani declined to comment on the suit and denied the promotion has anything to do with it, telling the Brooklyn News Service the oats campaign had long been planned.

The lawsuit is just the last one of a never-ending series of legal battles over intellectual property the country has seen since 1870, the year Congress passed the Federal Trade Mark Act.

Although trademark legislation has been amended on several occasions before assuming its current status with the Lanham Act of 1946, the main idea behind it has not changed: if you make money using my idea I will sue you.

In many trademark disputes, however, what constitutes intellectual property is up to interpretation. Ideas are sometimes too broad to be owned by an individual or a company.

This is exactly what Chobani claimed when it asked the court to delete the LNR’s trademark for “How,” as the Times reported in its story.

Press representatives for LRN did not return phone messages from the Brooklyn News Service.


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