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Jack Daniels Shows How To Write a Cease and Desist Letter 402

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-complies-with-honey dept.
NormalVisual writes "When the Jack Daniels distillery recently became aware of a book whose cover they felt substantially infringed their trademark, they didn't go into instant 'Terminator mode' — instead, they wrote a very thoughtful, civil letter to the infringing party, and even offered to help defray the costs of coming into compliance. I believe plenty of other companies (and many in the tech world) could use this as an example of how *not* to alienate people and come off looking like a bunch of greedy jerks."
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Jack Daniels Shows How To Write a Cease and Desist Letter

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  • Re:Classy (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:53AM (#40735813)

    Too many people grew up watching Apple sue everybody, never thinking Apple was doing it wrong.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:54AM (#40735831)

    Unfortunately, no. Failure to enforce a trademark does weaken it. I am not a lawyer but here's a Web page by someone who is: http://www.ggmark.com/protect.html#Maintenance [ggmark.com]

    It's not that consumers are apt to confuse the book with the whiskey. It's that Jack Daniel's failure to respond would be taken as evidence by a future trademark court that they don't care who uses their logo or for what purpose.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:55AM (#40735843)

    It could be mistaken as being an official JD product. I assume JD sells merchandise (including books of some sort) in addition to the drinks themselves.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:56AM (#40735857) Homepage

    They simply can't do this. This is the one area of intellectual property where they simply cannot mind their own business. This is mentioned in the letter and is done so in a very civil matter.

    They can't just "ignore this and hope it will go away".

  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:58AM (#40735893)
    Jack Daniels didn't demand the book cease printing, nor did it demand all the current books be taken off the shelf.

    we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is re-printed

    They go on to offer to help pay for the change if he does it sooner than the reprint/on the digital version.

  • Re:Quite unusual (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nyder (754090) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:00AM (#40735927) Journal

    Their lawyers must be drunk or something...

    It was too nice to be written by lawyers.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by mooingyak (720677) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:05AM (#40735991)

    Jack Daniels produces other items as well, such as t-shirts with their logo on them. The book could easily be mistaken as a product of the company.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Volante3192 (953645) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:08AM (#40736019)

    http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=85129461 [uspto.gov]
    Looks to me like it's a valid trademark.

    Maybe you're confused as to what a trademark is?

  • by forand (530402) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:39AM (#40736343) Homepage
    This is a great article certainly worth having on the front page of Slashdot. However, the complete lack of editorial oversight is infuriating. The sole link in this article is to Mashable, which cites BoingBoing [boingboing.net], which sites the webpage for the book [brokenpian...sident.com]. I simply clicked through those citation and found the primary source. Why didn't the Slashdot editor do this? To push traffic to Mashable? We should have the primary source as the primary reference. If the discussion on the other sites is worth it then those can be the focus of the article. Otherwise give the primary source!
  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ixokai (443555) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:45AM (#40736407)

    There's nothing wrong about it. Trademarks require enforcement or you lose them. They aren't copyright, "fair use" as copyright defines does not apply.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by somarilnos (2532726) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:46AM (#40736419)
    The fact that they're asking isn't wrong - the fact that they're asking is forced. If you own a trademark, and you don't defend it when it's infringed upon, you run the risk of losing that trademark. That means that if they let this go without so much as a letter, then John Danielson's Alabama Whiskey can use an identical looking bottle (except for the name) and put it on store shelves, and Jack Daniels would be unable to legally stop them. That's why they're doing this - the fact that they approached it without threatening, with offers to help, and the like, is very courteous, and really unheard of in today's society. Kudos here to Jack Daniels.
  • by novapyro (696513) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:48AM (#40736439)

    It may well be the entire industry that acts that way. A couple of years ago I was at a tasting event with the either Grandson or Great Grandson of Jim Beam, and he was the same way. .

    You're probably talking about Fred Noe III. Yep, he's a nice guy. As is Bill Samuels Jr. over at Maker's Mark. If you take a distillery tour here in Kentucky or attend a tasting at a Derby party or the Bourbon Festival, you might run into these guys. Or one of the many other storied distillers. To see Jack Daniels distillery, of course, you'll have to go to Tennessee. Even though the brand is now owned by a Kentucky company, (Brown-Forman) they are still most definitely a Tennessee whiskey.

    For a little bit more about the whiskey business, check out this photo book at the author's website:
    http://www.leonhowlett.com/kentuckybourbonexperience/ [leonhowlett.com]
    or at amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Bourbon-Experience-Kentuckys-Distilleries/dp/1935001817 [amazon.com]
    Or just go visit a distillery.

    Disclaimer: I know the author, but don't receive any compensation for the book. I just think it's a beautiful book.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by stretch0611 (603238) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:51AM (#40736473) Journal

    It is not a question of censorship. If you own a trademark and fail to enforce it, you risk losing that trademark. If Jack Daniels did nothing to this author, a few years down the road a competitor could theoretically sell a whiskey bottle with a similar design.

    They are not trying to ban the book and even did the nice thing of offering to help pay to redesign the cover. They are doing no more then protecting their trademark and are trying to help the book's author come into compliance instead of sending the lawyers after him.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ixokai (443555) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:51AM (#40736475)

    Trademarks do not leave open the option of just letting it go; they /have/ to be enforced, or the claim weakens and sooner or later the company gets into court on a real, *major* violation and the mark is ruled abandoned.

    JD makes more then just whiskey. They make all kinds of merchandise that is related to their core business, all under the same brand umbrella, all under the same image. No one would confuse his book for a bottle of whiskey, but they may confuse it for some official JD-endorsed publication. Is that very likely? Hard to say.

    However, JD is _required_ to enforce their trademark or they *lose* it.

  • Re:Classy (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:54AM (#40736529)

    Jim Beam is actually really shitty bourbon and a bad drink all-around.

  • Re:Classy (Score:1, Informative)

    by bbbaldie (935205) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:58AM (#40736595) Homepage
    The alternative is to contribute to a shite-storm of infected PC's. I think their motives are just to keep the hatred under control.
  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by _anomaly_ (127254) <anomaly@@@geekbits...com> on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:00PM (#40737323) Homepage
    I'd take Jack over Jim, too, but Jim is by no means representative of what good bourbon is.

    Try Woodford, any Pappy Van Winkle, Baker's, Booker's, Blanton's... the list of good bourbons isn't short. And, if you're going to cry foul because of price differential between Jack and those I listed, try Bulleit bourbon, one of my personal favorites.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by pkuyken (801014) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:14PM (#40737473)

    Irish or Scotch whiskey or no whiskey.

    I think you meant to say "Scotch whisky".

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:26PM (#40737629)

    That does not (IIRC, IANAL, STFU) apply to brand stylings. You can write a book called "Jack Daniels", you can make a TV show called "Jack Daniels", but you can't use the branding style of the Jack Daniel's trademark on them. It's the same reason why you can get sued for using a Superman-esque logo.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by SkimTony (245337) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:46PM (#40737967)

    The lawyers I know tend to hate litigation. It's a lot more work for less return than "sensible" negotiation.
    Lawyers who actually work for a company (as opposed to firms where they're contracting out) are also a bit like sysadmins; they have plenty of work on their plates just keeping ahead of the day to day stuff, and a big lawsuit would be like throwing a big upgrade project at them; if it can be avoided without risk to the business, it will be avoided.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by RMingin (985478) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:54PM (#40738107) Homepage

    Whiskey = Tennessee
    Bourbon = Kentucky
    Whisky = Scotland, exemplar of the format.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Roujo (2577771) on Monday July 23, 2012 @01:00PM (#40738193)

    Copyright and trademark are two different beasts. Copyright allows you to control who gets the right to copy your work. As such, you can give out licenses, for free or for a fee, since its purpose is exactly that: being able to profit from your work. Whether aggressive copyright enforcement is the best way to do that is a whole other story. =P

    The purpose of trademark is not the same at all. Trademarks are used to protect a brand's image. They are issued to prevent brand dilution (the brand becoming a generic term, as happened with Kleenex) and brand confusion (somebody else passing a lesser product as a better known brand, hurting the latter's reputation). Because the intent of a trademark is to preserve the uniqueness your brand, you are not allowed to knowingly let someone else use it. If you did, it would weaken any later trademark claims you made since you'd have permitted others to make your brand less unique. This is why Jack Daniel's says they are forced to send the cease and desist letter.

    Regarding whether this is an American thing or not, I do not know. I think it also applies here in Canada, but then again IANAL so I can't say for sure. =)

    I hope this helped!

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Informative)

    by _anomaly_ (127254) <anomaly@@@geekbits...com> on Monday July 23, 2012 @01:14PM (#40738379) Homepage
    I was going to provide links to government definitions and such, but I figured it'd just be easier to quote their own website:

    "Jack Daniel's is not a bourbon - it's a Tennessee Whiskey."

    http://www.jackdaniels.com/faqs [jackdaniels.com]

    It's the extra filtering step, the "Lincoln County Process", that excludes it from being a bourbon.

  • by NormalVisual (565491) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:36PM (#40739599)
    As the submitter, I can answer that question. The original page for the book looked to be a WordPress blog, and those often don't deal with Slashdot-level traffic very well. Mashable is a fairly large, well-known site that already handles a fair bit of traffic, and a direct link to the original webpage for the book is in fact included in the Mashable article for those that would be interested in pursuing the story further. It doesn't help anyone if an article doesn't have a working URL, so using the Mashable link had everything to do with making sure the given URL was working and the article was actually available for people to read.
  • Re:One Word (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday July 23, 2012 @04:04PM (#40740947)

    yeah, sure; when I think of friendly, open, accepting and neighborly, I *always* think of the south. yup, they are sure the bastion of tolerance. not homo-phobic, not anti-progressive, not racially motivated at all. nope. I always think of the south as such a welcoming and friendly place to be.

    (rolls eyes)

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