The Work

August 16, 2011 6:34 PM

Hogan Lovells Representing Chimp Champ Goodall in Baby Food Beef

Posted by Tania Karas

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is fed up with an organic baby-food company licensed to use her name on its products. That, at least, is what a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal district court by the nonprofit organization that bears Goodall's name indicates.

Saying it is owed $720,000 in unpaid royalties, the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation, represented by Hogan Lovells, filed the breach of contract suit against Sprout Foods on August 10.

In the suit—news of which was first reported by the New York Post—the institute claims that Sprout Foods has failed to honor the terms of an agreement reached last August "following an exhaustive search for a suitable licensee that could provide organic and vegetarian products in the infant food category." (Food Network chef Tyler Florence is a cofounder of Sprout Foods.)

In exchange for using Goodall's trademarked name, the complaint claims, Sprout Foods was to pay the institute a percentage of sales or royalty payments for the baby food line, Janey Baby by Jane Goodall. According to the suit, the payments were never made—and neither were the products. 

The institute canceled its contract with Sprout Foods on July 25, according to the complaint, which notes that the Goodall institute generates a substantial portion of its funding from licensing its trademarks, including Goodall’s name, to market ecofriendly products. The 28-month agreement with Sprout set sales goals of at least $5.5 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012, the complaint states.

Hogan Lovells partner Eric Lobenfeld and associate Eleanor Lackman referred questions about the suit to institute officials, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Sprout Foods, which had not yet filed a response to the suit, said it will "defend itself vigorously." The company also said it has begun discussions with the institute "concerning a revised relationship that would be of substantial benefit to both parties." A company spokeswoman would not comment on whether the company had seen the complaint or retained counsel in the matter.

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