Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Lawsuit prompts Wild Squirrel to change name

Tualatin peanut butter company will now be known as Wild Friends


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Keeley Tillotson, left, and Erika Welsh have run their peanut butter company Wild Squirrel since 2011. After getting into a legal battle over copyright issues, the company announced last week it would be changing its name.As a girl, Erika Welsh was known as “squirrel” because of her boundless energy.

So when she and friend Keeley Tillotson started their own peanut butter company at age 19 from their college dorm room in 2011, the adorable mascot seemed too good to pass up.

The result, Wild Squirrel Nut Butter, has taken off, becoming one of the most-watched start-ups in the Portland area.

Their products are available in half the country, and Welsh and Tillotson have been featured in Glamour and Oprah magazine and appeared on the ABC series “Shark Tank” twice.

But the company had to walk away from its name last week, after settling a legal battle with another squirrel-themed nut company over copyright infringement.

The Portland company announced on its blog last week that it would now be known as Wild Friends Nut Butter.

Wild Squirrel LLC filed a preemptive lawsuit in U.S. District Court last summer after receiving a letter from Texas-based Squirrel Brand Co., claiming copyright infringement.

Wild Squirrel asked a judge to rule whether its name infringed on Squirrel Brand’s rights.

Squirrel Brand, which has sold nuts and nut butter since 1888, counter-sued a few days later. The settlement was settled late last year. The details of the settlement have not been released.

The company has been working on the name change for about seven months, not long after the company’s legal battles began Welsh told The Times on Tuesday.

Welsh wouldn’t discuss details of the lawsuits, but said they were behind the name change, at least in part.

“It definitely played a factor into this,” Welsh said. “We are big dreamers and always talked about expanding and what more we can do with the company. That was the real motivating factor for us. If (the lawsuits) could be a risk, then we don’t want to get involved too deeply (with the old name) before we change. Now is as good a time as any.”

‘The Squirrels’

Tillotson and Welsh were roommates at the University of Oregon in 2011, when they stumbled into the peanut butter business.

The two Tualatin High School graduates were experimenting with homemade peanut butter, adding unusual ingredients such as chocolate and coconut, which they gave to friends.

Demand began to swell, and soon the duo was selling products online and at local markets under the name “Flying Squirrel” peanut butter.

They incorporated as “Wild Squirrel” in August 2011.

Welsh said three names in two years seemed excessive.

“I think it’s common for younger companies to change before they find the right fit,” Welsh said. “And I think we’ve found it, so there will be no other name change.”

Welsh said in the future, she sees Wild Friends expanding from beyond peanut and almond butter.

“We felt that the ‘Squirrel’ name was a little limiting,” she said.

In an official announcement on the company’s blog, Tillotson wrote the name change would help the company expand in the future.

“We chose our new name, Wild Friends, with the future in mind — the potential of new products, new woodland creatures and other new horizons,” Tillotson wrote.

More than anything else, the new name is a celebration of the company’s beginnings, Welsh said.

“’Friends’ really hits on the roots of our story,” Welsh said. “We started as best friends who loved food and loved sharing it with people.”

The company will retain its squirrel mascot.

“We love our squirrel,” Welsh said. “We have a strong connection with it. I mean, (Keeley and I) are called ‘The Squirrels.’”

For more information

about Wild Friends, visit their website.




Local Weather

Fair

49°F

Tigard

Fair

Humidity: 77%

Wind: 5 mph

  • 20 Apr 2014

    Cloudy 63°F 46°F

  • 21 Apr 2014

    Few Showers 64°F 45°F