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ThinkGeek's Best Ever Cease-and-Desist Letter 264

Posted by kdawson
from the good-source-of-sparkle dept.
ThinkGeek, sister company to Slashdot, received a meticulously researched (except on one point) 12-page cease-and-desist letter from the National Pork Board. What had the meat lobbyists up in arms was an April Fools product from the TG catalog: Radiant Farms Canned Unicorn Meat, whose copy included the line "the new white meat." The NPB figured this was confusingly similar to their trademarked "the other white meat" (an advertising slogan the pork industry is considering retiring anyway). Geeknet, parent company of Thinkgeek and Slashdot, issued a press release apologizing for any confusion; you can read it on ThinkGeek's site (PDF), because the newswires refused to distribute it for some reason. Oh, and ThinkGeek has no intention of taking down the protected parody.
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ThinkGeek's Best Ever Cease-and-Desist Letter

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  • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Monday June 21, 2010 @07:24PM (#32647430) Homepage
    OK, but where is this "12 page C&D letter"?
  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Monday June 21, 2010 @07:33PM (#32647504) Journal
    "We're sorry your lawyers can't tell the difference between real copyright/trademark violations, and protected parody."

    Anything else is a waste of bits.
  • by Trip6 (1184883) on Monday June 21, 2010 @07:36PM (#32647528)

    I thought articles and comedy bits that were clearly satirical were protected under the first amendment. They aren't trying to make money with the white meat phrase except to add to the humor of the article, so what would the damages be?

  • by interval1066 (668936) on Monday June 21, 2010 @07:36PM (#32647534) Homepage Journal
    The soylent green is made out of unicorns?
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday June 21, 2010 @07:49PM (#32647628)

    /////.not the lawyers who are just dealing with the laws as they are.

    Pardon me, but this is clearly parody. The lawyers ALREADY HAVE LAWS TO TELL THEM TO RESPECT PARODY. They chose to ignore them.

    Not only is this a parody, its not even a real product, and the phrase is not the same phrase as "the other white meat."

    Playing up the "We're just following the law, ma'am and are powerless to think for ourselves" card is a unconvincing excuse. that empowers organizations like SCO.

    Lastly, pork is far from the 'other white meat'. Compared to chicken or turkey its incredibly unhealthy.

  • Re:New slogan? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Monday June 21, 2010 @08:01PM (#32647740)

    Pork : Not just for Congress anymore!

  • by dewatf (209360) on Monday June 21, 2010 @08:03PM (#32647762)
    And it's not like the lawyers didn't know it is stupid.

    This was probably the most fun they had all year.
  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday June 21, 2010 @08:03PM (#32647766)

    Companies get their panties in a bunch. We laugh at them. Film at 11.

    It's actually an interesting insight into the bureaucratic mindset of the average idiot.

    Pork Boss: Smith! Get over here now! There is some company using a slogan on some food that's really similar to ours!
    Smith: Uhhh, boss, I don't think that Unicorn meat really exis...
    Pork Boss: What? Smith! NOW! Get our lawyers on the horn! This can't go ahead!
    Smith: Uhhhh, right on it boss.
    *ringing phone*
    Pork Lawyer: WHAT? Oh my, I will draft a letter IMMEDIATELY, this can't go on, who owns Unicorn Meat anyhow? Do they have a strong lobby group?
    Smith: Uhhhh, again, I don't think that it's really real, I mean it's unicorn mea...
    Pork Lawyer: Nonsense! This is outrageous. I will have them by the balls on this one. The letter will be out in the afternoon mail run! *click* Suzie, send a bill to the Pork Board for a cease and desist. Slap on a few extra hours work too will ya darling? Cheers!

    All that can now be heard is the soft sad crying of Common Sense in the corner.

  • Re:Oh, c'mon! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 21, 2010 @08:11PM (#32647830)

    did you mean "rabid" or "vapid" ... I can't pick your intentions out of context, this is /. so either can apply.. or did you intend to say we were very quick unicorn enthusiasts? :-P

  • by budgenator (254554) on Monday June 21, 2010 @08:51PM (#32648180) Journal

    Except that " the other white meat(tm)" is a trademarked phrase not a copyrighted phrase so I don't think that parody is a defense, additionally Trademarks are protect it or lose it, so the lawyers really had no choice no matter how ridiculous the infringement was.

  • by Capsaicin (412918) on Monday June 21, 2010 @09:46PM (#32648484)

    [C]onsider that organizations can lose their trademarks if they don't actively defend them against even vague and doubtful potential infringements.

    I agree with you that we shouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction against lawyers and I would add that there was not even a potential infringement here, the statment "the other white meat," was not being used in trade. Pork's lawyers should have waited till next April to send their complaint.

    That's not to say that the law isn't stupid

    It isn't stupid enough to permit this action. Moreover, the law which requires trade mark owners to defend their marks exists to ensure that abandoned marks don't memory leak.

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday June 21, 2010 @10:18PM (#32648704)

    That sequence *is* actually common sense, but for everyone independently: the lawyer wants billable work, the manager wants to get ahead by impressing their higher-ups, and Smith isn't really getting paid enough to object strongly.

    Extrapolate to millions of people and you get Corporate America.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:30AM (#32649794)
    I was about to make a joke that this "news release" sounds more like a coupon for thinkgeek, then I realized that that's actually what it is!

    For a limited time, visitors to ThinkGeek.com can take $10 off any order of $40 or more by using the code PORKBOARD at checkout. The discount applies to merchandise totals and excludes shipping charges, The coupon is good until 6/30/2010 at 11:59PM ET.

    LOL at newswires refused to distribute it for some reason
  • by bartwol (117819) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:20AM (#32651608)

    Smith isn't really getting paid enough to object strongly

    It doesn't matter how much you pay an employee...if it's a public company or institution, the employee won't speak up. The only tangible benefit to speaking up is it saves the company legal fees. But those savings do not pass to the individual employee. What does pass to the individual employee who tries to avoid legal action (i.e. risk mitigation) is that if the risk comes to fruition, that person is humiliated for having decided to take the risk. So the employee has to weigh a potential benefit to the company against the risk of his own personal humiliation.

    Unless he's an owner and the legal fees are coming out of his own pocket, he'll [almost always] avoid any possibility of personal humiliation, and instead, allow (or even favor) the company taking legal action, no matter how much he gets paid. (CEOs and other high-paid execs of public companies are often the worst offenders, being most concerned about their personal images.)

    You just can't beat the economics of spending other people's money.

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