‘It has not been a great week for oatmeal!’
The Quaker Oats Company (a subsidiary of food and beverage giant PepsiCo), has also made a rather embarrassing gaffe on the trademark enforcement front,  on the heels of a recall for its Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars. And unfortunately, demand letters are far more difficult to recall.
Evidently, an in-house trademark attorney at Quaker Oats recently discovered a Christmas tree farm in Visalia, California using the (rather odd) name “Quaker Oats Christmas Tree Farm.” The attorney sent a somewhat perfunctory template demand letter to the farm, citing Quaker Oats’ various registrations for the QUAKER trademark:
It was therefore quite a surprise to discover that you are operating a business under the name “Quaker Oats Christmas Tree Farm.” Your use of our trademark is likely to mislead consumers into believing that your business is associated with the Quaker Oats Company. It is also likely to weaken our very strong trademark. In light of the foregoing, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of the “Quaker Oats” name. [. . .] While we would like to settle this matter amicably, we will take all steps which are necessary and appropriate to protect our name.
Seems reasonable enough. Diligent enforcement is, after all, an essential facet of a robust trademark portfolio. But there are two problems here: first, the farm in question is owned and operated by people of the Quaker faith. And second, the farm’s actual name is the Quaker Oaks Christmas Tree Farm, a “sustainable agriculture and environmental education centre in the Kaweah Delta of California.”
And as tends to occur when big companies send flimsy demand letters, things went public fairly quickly. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Irvine, California soon posted the letter, along with its truly entertaining response.
My breakfast this morning—rolled oats by the way—was interrupted by the arrival of your letter via FedEx, which was delivered to us despite the fact that you have misspelled our company name which is Quaker OAKS Christmas Tree Farm. Our farm was so named because religious services were held outdoors on this farm under a great oak tree until about ten years ago when we were able to move into our new Meetinghouse on another corner of our farm.
Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers. We trace our Quaker ancestors back 320 years and they were mostly farmers, but I don’t know how many of them grew oats for your company. My guess is that you may be selling far more Lutheran oats, Methodist oats, or maybe atheist oats. Could your company be guilty of product source misrepresentation?
When it comes to enforcement, I’m quite certain Quaker Oats has a lot on its plate (pardon the pun), but here’s another reminder to wield the power of a demand letter with caution, and to always double-check the details of a potential infringer’s use.
(Bapoo Malcolm is an Advocate at the Bombay High Court and a former national cycling champion. He is practises civil and criminal law, documentation and arbitration, family court matters, real estate redevelopment matters and testamentary work)


‘Fair practices code adopted by banks is observed more in breach than in practice’ over a year after it was issued
Well over a year after the Reserve bank of India (RBI) notified the Charter of consumer services, very little has changed. The code remains toothless, yet the RBI only talks about its issuance, nearly a year and half after it was formally announced. 
 “Very often, RBI has found that the fair practices code adopted by banks / financial institutions is observed more in breach than in practice. In view of the growing complexities of the financial transactions and financial markets, RBI, therefore, felt a need to clearly define the role and responsibility of financial services providers, especially in relation to consumer protection and the framing of the Charter of Customer Rights was a logical step in that direction”, said SS Mundra, RBI Deputy Governor, while addressing a gathering at the Banking Codes and Standards Board of India (BCSBI) this week.
He addressed another overdue issue, when he said, "RBI is already examining whether to issue regulatory direction with regard to limiting the liability of customers on fraudulent transactions arising out of frauds and electronic banking transactions". He admitted that with the increase in online transactions, there has been a rise in complaints related to electronic banking transactions, unauthorised fund transfers, fraudulent withdrawals from ATMs using duplicate cards and phishing e-mails, among others.  "It is imperative to have a robust mechanism to prevent incidents of frauds in mobile Net banking and the electronic fund transfer so as to retain customers' confidence in these delivery channels," he said. 
At the same time, raising customer awareness for safe usage of these channels should be an important item on the agenda of the banks, he said. "... if customers don't get confidence in the channels and decide to abstain from them, then it can have only two outcome - either customer would migrate or customer would come back to the traditional channel which would mean higher operating cost for the banking system," he argued.
Mundra criticised the banks for totally ignoring or rather knowingly violating the 'Right to Suitability' enshrined in the RBI's Charter of Customer Rights in an attempt to mis-sell products to customers. Under the Rights to Suitability Charter, the products offered by the banks should be appropriate to the needs of the customer and based on an assessment of their financial circumstances and understanding. "RBI is seized of this issue and may take a strict action, including heavy penalties, if the banking industry continues to follow such unethical and unaccepted practices of mis-selling of third-party products," Mundra warned. He advised banks to put in place a system of periodic inspections of the sale of third-party products by either own staffs or by direct selling agents (DSAs).
The RBI is also planning to augment the number of its banking ombudsmen offices in the near future, Mundra said.
In conclusion, Mundra said that as the competition intensifies with the licensing of more new banks, only those entities which provide better customer service and experience would survive. Various research studies have shown that customers are willing to pay for quality service and would transact with the institutions which provide better services. Some of us might have heard that customers choose to move to another bank in case if he/she was dissatisfied with the services received at the present. With the implementation of a unified KYC (Know Your Customer), account number portability, would come into the realms of possibility. With the introduction of unified payments interface, a customer can be identified with his unique “virtual address” mapped to his mobile phone linked to the bank account number. With this information available centrally at the NPCI, the portability of the account would merely need a change in linkage to an account in another bank at the backend. Banks must, therefore, build structure and processes that aim at providing quality and efficient services or else face the prospects of a customer silently walking away without causing any inconvenience to him/ her and loss of business to the bank. This is the warning to all banks and bank staff, as customers have begun to value service from banks.



Jagdish Manghnani

12 months ago

Very good if implemented in the right sprit

Pulse Beat

Driving and Listening to the Radio

A recent study showed that listening to radio news can adversely affect driving. Researchers, led by Gillian Murphy from University College Cork and Ciara Greene, PhD, from University College Dublin (both Ireland), show how important it is to keep our attention firmly on the road. “Anything that draws our attention away from driving can be problematic, even if it’s auditory like listening to the radio or having a hands-free phone conversation.” That doesn’t mean that we should ban radios in cars, but that we should all be aware of the limits of our attention, says Guillian Murphy.
Paying attention to one sense (hearing) might decrease attention to another sense (seeing).


Respiratory Infection in Infants & Diabetics

Aretrospective observational study in Germany points at the possibility of early onset respiratory tract infection with viruses, especially respiratory syncytial virus, associated with a significant increase in the incidence of type-I diabetes in those kids. This is connected to the lack of development of the immune system. One of the preventive measures might be breast-feeding which makes the infant’s immune system robust.
The researchers found that children who experienced respiratory tract infections between birth and 2.9 months of age or between 3 and 5.9 months of age were more likely to be diagnosed with type-1 diabetes by the age of 8 years, compared with children who did not develop respiratory tract infections during those age ranges.

Statins Do Not Prevent Heart Muscle Damage

“Giving daily doses of statins for a few days before and after heart surgery does not prevent heart muscle damage or the development of atrial fibrillation (AF), according to an international clinical trial led by the University of Oxford and funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).” 
The trial, which is the largest of its kind, showed that short-term statin treatment did not benefit heart surgery patients and increased the risk of developing kidney damage. These results, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), rule out a clinical benefit of the rapid anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of statin therapy in heart surgery and are expected to change international guidelines on preventing AF and other in-hospital complications after heart surgery.
One by one, all the tall claims of statin manufacturers are being demolished. This is the latest in the list. Interestingly, the researchers go too far in claiming that this study does not invalidate the claim that statins help in preventing heart attacks, although now the US government’s USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) says that cholesterol is a friend and not an enemy—as was claimed in the past. That makes the risky statin therapy redundant. How they come to that conclusion is anybody’s guess.

Antibiotic Resistance

One of the leading causes of the serious threat of super bugs that do not respond to most new antibiotics comes from inappropriate use of antibiotics for simple upper respiratory infections. A recent study, published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), puts that figure at more than 50% of antibiotics prescribed without proper indications. 
“Half of antibiotic prescriptions for acute respiratory conditions may have been unnecessary, representing 34 million antibiotic prescriptions annually. Collectively, across all conditions, an estimated 30 per cent of outpatient, oral antibiotic prescriptions may have been inappropriate,” says Dr Katherine 
E Fleming-Dutra. some soul-searching seems to be going on to see how best we can curb this tendency and rules are framed to stop unwanted antibiotic prescriptions. 


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