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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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  • Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rwise2112 (648849) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:41AM (#40735693)
    That's classy.
    Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?
  • One Word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zblack_eagle (971870) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:42AM (#40735705)

    Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?

    Sociopaths

  • by din0 (2608929) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:43AM (#40735711)
    With a tip of the hat, a please and thank you --A Southerner
  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:45AM (#40735731)

    That's classy.
    Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?

    It's not profitable (or at least it is not immediately obvious why doing so would be profitable).

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:50AM (#40735785) Journal

    That's classy. Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?

    It's not profitable (or at least it is not immediately obvious why doing so would be profitable).

    Not profitable? Do you know how many "That's so classy I'm going to buy a bottle just to support them" messages I've read on various blogs? It's not just a cease and desist letter; it is an advertising coup.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by realityimpaired (1668397) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:51AM (#40735787)

    It's not profitable (or at least it is not immediately obvious why doing so would be profitable).

    Well... not sure how they're advertising their product in the states, but here in Canada their current ad campaign is all about their history, and trying to set themselves up as a friend of the family. The publicity that a "fuck off and die" C&D letter could create has the potential destroy that ad campaign.

    The good will and good publicity that this letter has created, on the other hand, almost certainly helps the image they're trying to foster for their product.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by localman57 (1340533) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:52AM (#40735803)

    That's classy. Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?

    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. He had great things to say about all of his Kentucky competitors' products. I think their view of things is to promote Kentucky Burbon, not just their own label. A rising tide lifts all ships kind of thing.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by habig (12787) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:53AM (#40735811) Homepage

    Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?

    A cynical take on why lawyers don't usually act like this: the purpose of law and lawyers is to resolve conflicts. By doing so in a jerky way, they ensure more future conflicts, ergo, job security.

    That said, these guys resolved this conflict in the best way possible, kudos to them: hope they don't get disbarred for it or anything!

  • Win/win (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jesrad (716567) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:55AM (#40735839) Journal

    JD's gets free publicity, and strengthens the brand by setting a nice example and by turning Wensik's book's first edition into a collector for its own whiskey fans, while the author enjoys greater exposition for his book, and sells out the first edition as a collector item. The general public loses nothing, some of us can even enjoy an unexpected collectible.

    This really is the nicer way to handle brand infringement.

  • Re:One Word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:58AM (#40735901)

    Sociopaths

    Maybe, or maybe just immature butthurt jerks.

  • Re:Classy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:01AM (#40735937)

    Sure, but Jack Daniels has worked for decades to build that image (probably to overcome the "outlaw redneck" image that comes to mind); how would a company like Microsoft pull this off?

    Actually, if Microsoft did this it would be even more newsworthy. And they can use all the good will they can get.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:06AM (#40736009) Homepage

    I was just thinking same thing from the opposite direction.

    Most C&D letters are written by the lawyers. What incentive does a lawyer have to be non-combatitive?

    If he is combatative it makes him look good to the people he is representing, and doesn't risk having them question whether he is really doing his job. If he is non-combatative, like this, then that doesn't make more work for him either.

    If it leads to a huge battle, the company isn't going to blame the lawyer for being to combative, since he is just fighting for them. If it looks soft or like it isn't going to be effective, they are going to blame him.

    Its true, that on a deeper analsys this is probably the better way to go... that doesn't mean that every cog in the wheel making decisions is making that deeper analsys. When the legal department gets notice of infingement, they have one hammer, and you know what that tends to make all problems look like.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by azalin (67640) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:09AM (#40736031)

    I would like to propose new legislation in which every time you file a lawsuit for patent, copyright or trademark infringement, you must send a bottle of a nice bourbon to the defendant.

    Wouldn't that actually encourage infringing?

    Anyway it is nice to see that some people defend their trademark without acting like a douche about it. While I'm not a huge fan of their product or bourbon in general (Scottish single malts for me), I really like their way of doing business.
    Well done and please enjoy the free publicity, you earned it.

  • Parody (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey (83763) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:10AM (#40736045) Journal

    Perhaps this could be called parody. Lots of times people take a famous logo and tweak it for a joke or comment. eg the Coke logo that says "Cocaine".
    Generally that's called fair use.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sentrion (964745) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:21AM (#40736143)

    1. Companies don't just have the option of defending their trademarks, they have the DUTY to defend their trademarks or lose the right to those trademarks. Of course nobody is going to presume that a book is a bottle of Jack Daniels, but the design of the cover is clearly recognizable as the Jack Daniels design, even referencing "40% ALC. BY VOL." Having your trademark used by other people and companies could set a track record of not defending your trademark, which would mean that more people could use your trademark and with so many examples of others being allowed to do it you might not be able to stop anybody from using in the future. So if someone used the trademark and wrote a book that advocated giving alcohol to children it could become a real liability for Jack Daniels, both in the court of law and the court of public opinion, which could really affect a companies ability to sell and market their product.

    2. Jack Daniels also does license their trademarks to other companies, such a Friday's restaurants that serve the Jack Daniel's grilled meals, and there are also cookbooks that have agreements with Jack Daniels to use the trademark. So sub-licensing their own trademark is a profitable side business, and a business that is hard to continue when anybody can just use their trademark for free without paying for it.

    If you don't like trademark law then do something to change it, but don't disparage Jack Daniels for playing by the rules and conducting themselves in a manner that goes above and beyond what the law requires and above what is commonly accepted practice.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RaceProUK (1137575) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:23AM (#40736171)

    Apart from guarding against potential misuse of their trademark design, that is.

    The book may not technically be infringing, but it's close enough that JD had to do something. At least they had the decency to say 'We like what you did, but unfortunately we have to request you change it. We'll even help with the cost.', instead of the more usual 'Remove it last year of we'll sue for a kajillion dollars every second you don't comply!!!!1'.

  • Re:One Word (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AHuxley (892839) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:25AM (#40736183) Homepage Journal
    Re: Why can't more companies act this way towards one another?
    Poor kids who made it and became 'rich' still feel they will never belong.
    Legal rage to protect their 'things' makes it feel better for a few seconds.
    Rich kids who made it and became 'smart' wonder why they never feel anything.
    Legal rage to protect their 'things' lets them feel fun for a few seconds.
  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rezalas (1227518) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:28AM (#40736215)
    Microsoft provides free updates to their OS even if you're using a copy they know is pirated. I'd say that has a bit of good will to it, especially since most people just get a "you may be a victim of piracy" warning and a black desktop background. When it comes to being polite to people who pirate or infringe on your work, MS isn't exactly slashing throats.
  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:30AM (#40736237)

    Nah, I'm going to give them this one. The slam dunk is a book that's "40 % ALC. By VOL". It was obviously created to connect with the brand. The decorative lines (filigree?) around the edges is also identical. You don't get to trade on someone else's brand, and that's what the author is doing.

  • Re:Classy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:38AM (#40736329)

    They aren't being nice. They release pirated copies of their operating systems to populations that couldn't afford to buy it because even pirated market share is better than a competitor like ubuntu getting market share there.

    They aren't being nice.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scandalon (1021347) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:43AM (#40736371)
    I don't want a "classy lawnmower" or a "classy backhoe", but I'd buy one from a company who demonstrated classy behavior over a competitor who did not.
  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:47AM (#40736433) Homepage

    What incentive does a lawyer have to be non-combatitive?

    Preserving the company's brand, and likely closing down the issue quickly and efficiently, potentially even winning an advocate of the brand in the process?

    If it leads to a huge battle, the company isn't going to blame the lawyer for being to combative, since he is just fighting for them.

    If you've got a lawyer who can only litigate, I'd have thought you have a liability on your hands — far better someone who can assess the commercial implications along with the law, and come up with a sensible plan. If you want to reach a conclusion quickly and easily, litigation is perhaps the worst, and most expensive, way to go.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:51AM (#40736481)

    I see you've been reading too many /. comments, and now assume any enforcement of IP laws is an evil only slightly less than the Holocaust.

    "Intellectual property" laws (patent, copyright, and trademark) exist for a reason. The fact that they are heavily abused does not mean that every enforcement of them is invalid. There are millions of valid uses.

    In this case, it seems to be one of the increasingly-rare cases of the law being used properly. The book rather clearly copies the trademarked style of JD. It does not have any obvious fair use exemption - it's not being used to reference JD itself (nominative fair use), it's not a parody. It is someone using another's branding apparently either out of laziness, or deliberate deception (most likely the former, but I can't rule out the latter).

    It's not censorship. They aren't trying to get the book withdrawn, or removed (which they definitely would, if they were trying to censor the book). The cover has nothing worth censoring - it's just the title and other basic metadata. The only "artistic expression" they're trying to control is their own - the art of their trademark.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rezalas (1227518) on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:33AM (#40737007)

    So you had multiple copies flagged as unlicensed or as invalidly licensed, and they gave multiple warnings that the issue existed so you could fix the problem but your employees failed to notify you, and somehow that is MS being a dick? After that they help you fix the problem by giving you new CD keys and appologizing to you, and they still aren't nice to pirates? That makes no sense at all. Also, considering you started by saying it was half a dozen machines and followed it up by saying "most of our computers" I'll bet you're a small business which means they didn't exactly apologize because they had to, they did it because it was the right thing to do.

    It seems to me that they were pretty damn fair the whole time.

  • Re:Classy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:43AM (#40737127) Homepage Journal
    Many companies, including Jack Daniels, produce products other than their flagship product. For example, JD sells promotional items like T shirts and barbecue sauce. By your standard, other companies could sell these items as well because they're not whiskey. The confusion lies in the identity of the manufacturer, not the product itself. Imagine if a different company had decided to sell "Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce" and accidentally poisoned a bunch of people. Now you see why a trademark is a historically valuable thing to protect. It has a purpose.
  • Re:Classy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bbbaldie (935205) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:07PM (#40737387) Homepage
    It's Tennessee whiskey, NOT BOURBON!
  • by mcsqueak (1043736) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:16PM (#40737507)

    It makes me happy whenever I see companies operate in this manner - wish more would act this way, but I actually have experience with a larger company being nice.

    As part of my job I file and keep up all the trademark filing for the company I work for, and we actually had a trademark dispute a few years ago, involving a name we were registering being a little too close to an already registered name. They are probably a billion dollar revenue company in size, while we are only a few million.

    Despite being in two totally separate markets (but both involving technology products that can communicate with databases, etc.), their lawyer was very nice to me, and simply said they wouldn't pursue any actions against us as long as we dropped our current registration and simply filed a new one with our company name in front of it - so rather than "trademark", it became "companyname trademark". Not a big deal as we usually put our company name on our products any ways.

    Their lawyer even helped me better define the wording on our product registration, to make absolutely sure there wouldn't be any overlap with theirs. Didn't cost my company a dime, other than my time and a $325 refiling fee. I was very happy with the outcome, considering they could have buried us in legal crap had they wanted to.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Monday July 23, 2012 @12:40PM (#40737869)
    It is the Anti-Streisand.
  • Re:One Word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @01:37PM (#40738739)

    Correct. The Average American Corporation(tm) has qualities that strongly resemble (in overlapping ways) Schitzophrenia, Sociopathy, and Psychopathy. The all consuming greed, the complete and utter disregard for others, the complete narcissism. Clearly JD is not a member of "The Average American Corporation(tm)". Now business schools teach businesses and business people to behave in antisocial, psychotic, sociopathic and narcisistic ways, so its not a random accident. Its not just the corporations that are a destructive force on American Society, its the business schools too.

  • Re:Classy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Blue23 (197186) on Monday July 23, 2012 @03:54PM (#40740771) Homepage

    Not profitable? Do you know how many "That's so classy I'm going to buy a bottle just to support them" messages I've read on various blogs? It's not just a cease and desist letter; it is an advertising coup.

    Someone at Jack Daniel's has heard of the Streisand Effect, and is doing a good understanding what it means.

    Is this good business sense? Abso-freaking-lutely. For exactly the reasons you state. They couldn't pay for a marketing campaign that would generate this much good will this quick. Certainly if they tried it would be orders of magnitude more than offering to help him design a new cover.

    I'm not saying they're doing it manipulatively. I'm saying it's very possible for a corporation to act well and in doing so still "enhance shareholder value" or whatever.

    Cheers, good job JD! You show class.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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