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Editor: D. A. Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monkey Business Leads to Breach of Contract Claim

Jane_Goodall The New York Post reports that the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation is suing Sprout Foods in a $720,000 breach of contract claim.  We have not been able to locate an online version of the complaint, but media reports suggest that the Goodall Institute agreed to help market a new baby food to be named "Janey Baby" in return for an estimated $850,000 in royalties.  According to the Post, the Institute derives some of its revenue by permitting Jane Goodall's name to be linked with products that are appropriate for association with that name.  Since the Goodall name is associated with chimpanzees (and don't worry, we are aware that the picture at left does not contain a chimp), it's not clear to me why that's the name you would want on your baby food, but SpongeBob is on my daughter's toothpaste, despite the fact that we've never associated him with good personal hygiene.  Marketing is indeed a mysterious field.  

Despite ambitious plans for the new food, and despite the fact that Goodall herself went out to Oregon to visit Sprout's organic farm, Sprout never brought the product to market and never paid the institute its fee.  Sprout's primary defense appears to be that the contract was negotiated with its former CEO who was not "authorized" to enter into such an agreement.  Hmmm.  Although Sprout is defending itself against the charge of contractual breach, it is also "begun discussions with the institute concerning a revised relationship that would be of substantial benefit to both parties," according to the Post.  

If your best argument is that your CEO was not an authorized agent on a contract that apparently was partly performed, discussing a revised relationship seems like a good option.

[JT]

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