Whole Oats Enterprises, a partnership of musicians Daryl Hall and John Oates, has filed a lawsuit against Early Bird Foods & Co. alleging that the name of the company’s “Haulin’ Oats” granola product infringes on their trademarks. Whole Oats Enters. v. Early Bird Foods & Co., No. 15-1124 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D.N.Y., filed March 4, 2015). The musicians own the registered trademark in “Daryl Hall and John Oates” and assert common law trademark rights to “Hall & Oates,” which the group often calls itself. Early Bird’s “Haulin’ Oats,” a granola product containing rolled oats and maple syrup, is an “obvious” “phonetic play” on the band name, the complaint alleges.
The complaint also details a 2014 attempt at the use of “Haulin’ Oats” by a Tennessee company selling oatmeal and food-delivery services. The company assigned its rights to “Haulin’ Oats” to Whole Oats, which then licensed the name back to the company in exchange for royalties. Because of this assignment, the complaint asserts, Whole Oats owns the mark in connection with oatmeal and delivery services. The musicians allege statutory and common law trademark infringement as well as unfair competition, and they seek an injunction, compensatory damages and payment of gains resulting from the use of the name.