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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a lawsuit filed by a Virginia woman who says the makers of Skippy peanut butter stole the name from her father’s Depression-era comic strip. Joan Crosby Tibbetts said she will continue her battle against the multinational conglomerate Unilever. “This case involves a very important principle … ‘Thou shalt not steal,’” Tibbetts said. “If this case is allowed to disappear, and they succeed in shutting me up, who has won? These big corporations that believe they can just wear others down.” Unilever has insisted Tibbetts’ claims are without merit. A company spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment. Tibbetts, 71, began her crusade in 1965 while administering the estate of her father, Percy Crosby, who died the previous year after spending 18 years in a mental hospital, his cartoon character by then largely forgotten. Tibbetts’ father had once been one of the nation’s most popular cartoonists. His Skippy strip — detailing the adventures of a mischievous tyke who often tangled with bullies and got the better of them — ran in Life magazine and hundreds of newspapers, reaching the height of its popularity in the 1920s and ’30s. In 1978, she won a $25,000 settlement from Bestfoods, which had purchased Skippy peanut butter from the Rosefield Packing Co. But Tibbetts said the settlement was with the understanding that Bestfoods would use the original Skippy character in its marketing, which never occurred. It was also before Tibbetts found documents that she says are proof Skippy’s manufacturers knowingly obtained their trademark by fraud and covered up the evidence. She acknowledges the crusade has taken a toll — financially, emotionally and physically. Her doctors have warned her that her health could suffer if she continues. She has been subject to nasty comments from e-mailers who have told her, among other things, that they hope she drowns in a giant vat of peanut butter. “You learn to ignore those sorts of things when you know you are telling the truth,” Tibbetts said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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