London Daily Express, October 22, 2000
Unilever faces a battle for Skippy

By James Cruickshank in New York

A 68-year-old grandmother is preparing for a food fight with global giant Unilever in a record-breaking dispute over a kids' cartoon character. If she wins the case the jury may award the biggest ever payout in a trademark dispute. Joan Crosby Tibbetts is trying to prove that Bestfoods - which is close to completing a $20billion (13.8billion) merger with Unilever - stole the name Skippy from a famous Depression-era cartoon character created by her father, Percy Crosby. Bestfoods claims the case was settled in 1986 when a judge ruled that it had the exclusive right to use the name Skippy on food products. But Tibbetts won a court victory this summer when a judge overruled a gagging order by the food giant to shut down her website which repeated the claim that Skippy had been pirated by the company in the Thirties. "Bestfoods didn't appeal the decision because the bad publicity might have hurt their merger," she said yesterday. She has also notified Unilever's attorneys in New York. "We will be eventually filing an action. I am not at liberty to state what our legal strategy or claims are but I will tell you we will prove that Skippy belongs to my father and not them. The damages are incalculable," she said. Crosby's cartoon boy was the Charlie Brown of his day. Skippy's peanut butter, which is pitched on national television by baseball hero Derek Jeter, is one of the reasons why Unilever wants to buy Bestfoods. Unilever said that if she went ahead with a claim they would fight it in court.