Aunt Jemima heirs file $2 billion suit against Quaker Oats

Anna Short Harrington is the woman who portrayed "Aunt Jemima," and her great grandchildren are suing PepsiCo, its subsidiary Quaker Oats, Pinnacle Foods and its onetime suitor Hillshire Brands, charging that the companies conspired to deny that Harrington had been a Quaker Oats employee, while they trademarked and exploited her image and recipes for profit and refused to pay a fair share of royalties to her heirs for more than six decades, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Harrington stepped into the role of the pre-existing Aunt Jemima character in 1935, allegedly chosen because of her pancake recipe, which the company recreated for sale, and in 1937, the company first registered the trademark for the brand.

The suit also says Quaker Oats sought out Harrington's youngest daughter, Olivia Hunter, in 1989 and used her image to update Aunt Jemima's look, which is still used today.

The suit charges Harrington was persuaded not to use a lawyer, exploiting her lack of education and age, so that company wouldn't pay her a percentage of sales from her recipes, accusing the company of theft in getting 64 original formulas and 22 menus from her.

The Tribune says the family didn't determine they were owed royalties until they uncovered last year that Quaker Oats had trademarked Harrington's likeness and picture in 1937.