Aunt Jemima is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Did you know Aunt Jemima was a real person? Her name was Anna Short Harrington. In 1935, she took on the moniker “Aunt Jemima.” In 1937, Quaker Oats trademarked the “Aunt Jemima” brand with the intent to mass produce Harrington’s pancake recipe. Now Harrington’s heirs are looking for Quaker Oats, Pepsi, The Hillshire Brand and Pinnacle Foods Group to pay what they owe for the recipe to the tune of $2 billion. D.W. Hunter, Harrington’s great-grandson, is leading the family’s charge. He alleges that a conspiracy is in place involving all of the companies to use Harrington’s likeness and recipes for profits while denying that she was ever an employee of Quaker Oats.
The family’s desire to sue came after Hunter reviewed Harrington’s death certificate. On it, she listed Quaker Oats as her employer, a fact the companies deny, Hunter alleges, although they have Harrington’s image filed in the US Patent and Trademark. It is also alleged that Quaker Oats sought out Harrington’s daughter, Olivia Hunter, to use her likeness for the most recent Aunt Jemima image in 1989.
In all, Hunter and the family accuse the companies of stealing 64 original formulas and 22 menus from Harrington. Harrington’s lack of education was supposedly exploited she she was advised to not get a lawyer to arrange a percentage for her recipes’ use. Quaker Oats is also accused of licensing out Harrington’s image for other novelty items. Also cited in the lawsuit are “Screen Actors Guild residuals and standard policies in the entertainment industry regarding revenue statements.”