I normally tweet the daily news of national food holidays on the Bitter Lawyer Twitter feed, whether it is National Roast Suckling Pig Day (coming up on December 18) or the International Day of the Nacho (October 21). I do it to add a bit of ridiculousness to the legal day and, quite inexplicably, to help establish a National Lawyer Appreciation Day. After all, if you can have a National Cheeseball Day (April 17), why not a national day of celebration of lawyers?
Occasionally, to maintain the remote semblance of a link between lawyers, Bitter Lawyer, and national food celebrations, I’ll do some legal research on a specific food. Like today, which is National Raisin Bran Cereal Day.
Skinner Manufacturing Company created Raisin-BRAN in 1925, trademarked the name in 1926, and sold the breakfast cereal without any fear of competition until the early 1940’s, when Kellogg and Post got into the raising and bran flake cereal business. In 1942, Skinner sued Kellogg and Post to enjoin the use of the term Raisin-Bran, saying that it infringed on Skinner’s trademark and constituted unfair competition. Unfortunately for Skinner, the lawsuit failed.
The courts determined that the term Raisin-BRAN was merely descriptive of the product’s ingredients and was thus not entitled to protection as a trademark. After all, the court said, “‘pie containing raisins is ‘raisin pie,’ . . . bread containing raisins is ‘raisin bread’, and . . . muffins containing raisins are “raisin muffins.'”
Skinner also argued that Raisin-BRAN was so connected with its own cereal that Kellogg’s and Post’s use of the term allowed them unfairly to palm off their own cereals as essentially those of Skinner. The appellate court also dispatched with that quickly:
In the instant cases one reasonably can believe that to permit the appellees to use the words ‘Raisin Bran’ as descriptive of their respective products will not result in their products being sold as the product of appellant, provided the appellees furnish to the public adequate means of identifying the source of their raisin brans. Whatever the trade name ‘Raisin-BRAN’ may have meant prior to the advent of appellees’ competing products, it is a reasonable conclusion that the words ‘raisin bran’ have at all times meant bran with raisins in it.
Yep, bran with raisins it. Just like adding a bunch of raisins to Total™. Or not.
Skinner’s Raisin Bran box image from mrbreakfast.com