The New York law firm of Skadden, Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, the 11Ilth largest in the country is famous for its work in the feverish world of corporate acquisitions. It claims to be involved in 80% of the country's big merger deals.
The 52-year-old Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Mass., owned by the Saccone family and managed by David and Donald Saccone, serves 300 to 400 customers a day, bakes chocolate-chip cookies, and grosses about
million a year. It is also one of Skadden Arps's newest clients.
The Toll House Restaurant isn't involved in a merger. Rather, the Saccones hired Skadden Arps to defend them in a trademark suit. "It's costing us a lot of rnoney," says David Saccone, conceding that the amount is in the six figures. "We hired a big outfit because we're being siied by a big outfit."
Then the cookie business slowed down, and the restaurant passed into other hands. Along the way, Nestle acquired rights to use the Toll House name. Today, Nestle calls its chocolate chips "Toll House Morsels," accompanied by a trademark symbol. The story of the cookies' origin -- with Mrs. Wakefield's recipe--appears on every package.
A few years ago, the chocolate-chip cookie industry experienced a comeback. The Saccone family, which bought the Toll House 10 years ago, gradually started distributing its cookies to all of New England. They currently sell about 24,000 bags of cookies a week.
According to Jonathan Lerner, of Skadden Arps, Nestle recognized in writing in 1948 that Ruth Wakefield was free to continue selling cookies made at the restaurant under the name Toll House and that the Saccones acquired this right when they bought the restaurant. Since then, he says, the Saccones have been selling the cookies with Nestle's knowledge. Indeed, Lerner claims, Nestle has been selling the Saccones the chocolate used in the cookies, and has featured the Saccones' restanrant in advertising its morsels.