Heirs to pancake guru file lawsuit claiming legal issues

Being proud of grandma’s cooking is likely something many Texans can understand. Whether it’s biscuits and gravy, fluffy breakfast pancakes or spicy tamales, whatever your grandmother made better than anyone else was always a treat on the table. For one family, a great-grandmother’s pancake expertise went beyond the family table. According to a $2 billion lawsuit, that woman’s pancake recipes became a favorite at tables across the country in the last century.

The woman was Anna Short Harrington. Her heirs have filed a lawsuit stating that she was the inspiration for the Aunt Jemima brand. They further claim legal issues exist between the woman’s estate and both Quaker Oats and its parent company.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies participated in a conspiracy meant to keep royalty payments from Harrington and her estate. According to the family, Quaker said there were no records that Harrington every worked for them or that they had images on file of her. The lawsuit claims that Quaker deposited the woman’s image with the U.S. Trademark Office, however.

The family reportedly filed the lawsuit after obtaining a death certificate. The certificate allegedly named Quaker Oats as Harrington’s employer. In addition to using the woman’s image on packaging and in branding, the family alleges that the companies stole the woman’s pancake recipes for use in their mass-market products. They say the woman was never fairly compensated for this.

The suit is being filed as a class action. Harrington’s great-grandsons are reportedly bringing the action on behalf of her descendants, seeking what they believe to be fair royalty payments dating back to Harrington’s initial involvement with the companies.

Source: CNN Money, “‘Aunt Jemima’s’ heirs sue product makers for $2 billion” Patrick M. Sheridan, Aug. 11, 2014