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ThinkGeek's Best Ever Cease-and-Desist Letter

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the good-source-of-sparkle dept.

Idle 264

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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264 comments

Why did this make the front page? (-1, Offtopic)

spqr0a1 (1504087) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647394)

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

Re:Why did this make the front page? (5, Informative)

sheetsda (230887) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647466)

Would you have known about the $10 off any $40 order if it wasn't on the front page? ;)

Article reading FTW!

Re:Why did this make the front page? (0, Troll)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647810)

Note to the moderators: This might look to be offtopic, but then you should remember that slashdot is also owned by Geeknet.

Parent's point is that this is obviously a front page article because it's a slashvertisement for a website owned by the same company that owns slashdot.

Re:Why did this make the front page? (0, Troll)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648430)

That's worthy to note, however frequently we end up with news from companies making ridiculous abuse of the IP laws. This is just as absurd as a lot of them. They just should've disclosed the tie in.

Oh, c'mon! (4, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647666)

Are you deliberately ignoring the fact that Slashdot's audience are rapid unicorn enthusiasts?

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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

Re:Oh, c'mon! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647920)

i have to admit, the unicorn enthusiasts here are inclined to be very quick, more so then your everyday rabid unicorn enthusiasts.

Re:Oh, c'mon! (4, Informative)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648106)

He was apparently distinguishing those who admire unicorns from a distance from those who play games with them: Being swift-footed goes hand in hand with being able to jump high, which is absolutely necessary when playing unicorns' favorite game: leapfrog.

Re:Why did this make the front page? (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Why did this make the front page? (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648194)

I know why Agent Smith snapped in the matrix movie. This is why. His world was filled with the AI version of these two paper pushers.

Good but... (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647400)

Well good. But does this mean I have to give up bacon?

Re:Good but... (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647422)

There are many good reasons why you might want to give up bacon. But this is not one of them.

Re:Good but... (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647498)

Phew... that's good. Cause a bacon double cheeseburger without bacon is just sad.

Re:Good but... (3, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647586)

Actually, there's a shorter name for those.

Re:Good but... (5, Funny)

rootofevil (188401) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647622)

i dunno, baconless bacon double cheeseburger doesnt look shorter to me.

Re:Good but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648134)

one baconless double cheeseburger with no cheese or meat please

Re:Good but... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648172)

"Double baconator, hold the bacon"?

Burgers I'm waiting for:
1: Spamburger. A thick slice of spam between two beef patties.
2: Gravy-fried buns.
3: Grooved burgers, which can hold a lot more cheese and mayo.
4: Inside-out burger, with patties on the outside and bread on the inside.

Incidentally, I know just the place where you can buy affordable paper napkins wholesale!

Re:Good but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647704)

Not unless you're Jewish.

Acronym? (5, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647424)

SPAM is a contraction of SPiced hAM; what is the acronym for Canned Unicorn Meat? Have they considered changing the slogan to "Enjoy some tasty CUM today!"?

Re:Acronym? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648434)

Cum on! I just spooged my coffee all over my monitor

The Letter, Please... (2, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647430)

OK, but where is this "12 page C&D letter"?

Re:The Letter, Please... (2, Informative)

genfail (777943) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647476)

This trademark has been mocked from day one (2, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647444)

Soylent Green: the other other white meat!

Re:This trademark has been mocked from day one (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647644)

pretty sure people are red meat.

Re:This trademark has been mocked from day one (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647712)

Hannibal Lecter is no wine connoisseur -- just because he chooses to serve it with a nice chianti doesn't necessarily make it "red meat". Try googling "Human white meat" -- there appears to be considerable debate on the subject, but human has long been compared to pork and referred to as "long pig".

Re:This trademark has been mocked from day one (1, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648044)

pretty sure people are red meat

Only if you're native American. I'm not so sure about the rest of us.

Lawyers are idjits... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647452)

"New".... "Other"... Damn, yeah, I always get those two words mixed up.

*facepalm*

Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (4, Informative)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647460)

...consider that organizations can lose their trademarks if they don't actively defend them against even vague and doubtful potential infringements. If they let this case slip without issuing a token C&D, it could be cited later by an actual competitor as grounds for permitting their own infringement.

That's not to say that the law isn't stupid, but the proper target for complaints about the stupidity of the law is your local congresscritter, not the lawyers who are just dealing with the laws as they are. These lawyers are just writing letters, not trolling for DUI cases on the sides of city buses.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (5, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (2, Insightful)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648180)

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.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648240)

What exactly is confusing the potential consumer in this case? How can he be tricked into buying a fictional product? Its ridiculous to keep defending this action.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (1)

archmcd (1789532) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648276)

Except for the fact that there was NO INFRINGEMENT. Once again, the trademarked phrase was never actually used by ThinkGeek, and the only thing (at least) the first page of the C&D stated as far as actual infringement was on the part of other parties using it while referencing Unicorn Meat, which isn't ThinkGeek's liability.

I am not a lawyer, however, just an entertained American with common sense, which I understand has no place in the court room.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647660)

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

Why is it whenever this sort of crap C&D gets pulled, someone like you feels the need to demonstrate that you know absolutely nothing about trademark law by posting this absurd excuse?

As an example of how utterly and completely wrong you are, consider this letter [darrenbarefoot.com], which demonstrates how a company could respond, if they were so willing.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (5, Informative)

RuralJuror (1836050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647670)

That would be true if this were a real product.

I am an IP lawyer (IAAIPL). From the letter of demand, it appears that the NPB hasn't actually twigged that this is an imaginary product. Therefore even if ThinkGeek has used their trademark, they haven't used it as a trademark - i.e. to indicate the origin of a product - because there is no actual product. (I tried ordering it, it doesn't let you.)

Funnily enough, it might be different if they were shipping something, even if it was just a novelty can of dog food.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647752)

I know someone that works for a company that sends these letters. She's a moron. In fact, everyone that "researches" these cases at that company is a moron (at least all the ones I've met) They get a trademark, in this case "The other white meat" as a case file. It comes with the trademark itself, some pictures of how its used on cans and what-not and other basic info. Then they put the terms into a scripting program they have... which is basically just a web crawler. The crawler finds sites that use the terms and other sites that link to them. They then build a case file based on this info that is punched into a form letter and sent off to be signed. Here's the kicker: The more "offenses" they find, the more they get paid. It's like commission. They can make stupid amounts of money doing nothing at all for the whole day. It's so profitable they actually hire teams of people to print out their "Case files" (screenshots of websites) in full color, binder them and ship them to various places. I know another person that works in the "Binder department." The person I know working the case files makes in excess of $50k a year, the binder person about $25k, but of course they don't have the skills needed to work a search engine I guess.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648232)

I know someone that works for a company that sends these letters. She's a moron.

If we didn't have jobs for morons to do the rest of us would have to support them with welfare.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (2, Insightful)

dewatf (209360) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647762)

And it's not like the lawyers didn't know it is stupid.

This was probably the most fun they had all year.

Re:Before having a knee-jerk anti-lawyer moment... (4, Informative)

initialE (758110) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648236)

If the intention is to protect their trademark, issuing an exemption (a proceed and permitted letter) is also an acceptable option, and it's a hell of a lot less offensive. These guys are just being jerks.

Interesting (3, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647474)

How many people has the California Milk Processor Board sued for the literally hundreds of infringements of their "Got ____?" Trademark?

Re:Interesting (5, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647792)

How many people has the California Milk Processor Board sued for the literally hundreds of infringements of their "Got ____?" Trademark?

Dunno. Got Citation?

Pat yourselves on the back much? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647480)

ThinkGeek is teh gay.

Re:Pat yourselves on the back much? (2, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647524)

I can't see anything at all gay about naming a parody of SPAM "Canned Unicorn Meat"!

Protected by Parody law.... (1)

theNetImp (190602) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647496)

I love it. Since this was an april fools joke they are totally protected by parody law. Stupid stupid lawyers... LOL too funny

the only apology it deserves: (2, Insightful)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647504)

"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.

Re:the only apology it deserves: (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647664)

Well, they can't tell the difference between red meat (mammalian) and white meat (fowl), so at least they're consistent.

Re:the only apology it deserves: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648092)

Yeah, if only that were the difference between red and white meat.

Duck is red meat and fowl, and rabbit is white meat and mammalian. Nice try, though.

Re:the only apology it deserves: (1)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647698)

They could have just not responded, and then later claimed it got stuck in their "spam" folder.

Stupid lawyers probably wouldn't get it anyway.

You are all missing the real issue here! (4, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647506)

Unicorn meat is murder!

Stop the needless killing of endangered species!

Re:You are all missing the real issue here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647760)

Unicorn meat is murder!

Tasty, tasty murder!

Stop the needless killing of endangered species!

No they are not endangered they are merely the very rarely seen larval stage of the rhinoceros.

Re:You are all missing the real issue here! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647820)

But it's magically delicious!

Re:You are all missing the real issue here! (3, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647832)

Unicorns are already extinct. I think the idea is that if we kill and eat enough of them we'll get an integer underflow glitch and we'll be back up to 2.1 billion unicorns in the world.

Re:You are all missing the real issue here! (3, Funny)

grahamwest (30174) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648136)

Yes but if it's a 64bit int we might wind up with 8 quintillion of them - we'd be neck deep or something!

Re:You are all missing the real issue here! (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648156)

You realize that you're trying to sell this to the greatest concentration of natural unicorn hunters the world has ever seen.

They need to show they are doing some work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647514)

I think the lawyers at National Pork Board are Googling "actual" work and not searching for porn like at the SEC.

Re:They need to show they are doing some work. (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647626)

There is googling pork and then there is googling "pork" if you know what mean - nudge, nudge, wink, wink...

Isn't Satire Protected? (3, Insightful)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Isn't Satire Protected? (4, Informative)

RuralJuror (1836050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647602)

You're thinking of copyright. They're not arguing copyright infringement, they're arguing trademark infringement.

I'm an IP lawyer (IAAIPL) and putting aside the fact that this is completely ridiculous, the most obvious legal problem the NPB is going to face is that I don't think ThinkGeek was using the slogan as a trademark (which is a prerequisite for trademark infringement), given that they weren't selling an actual product. Although to be fair, I'm not sure the sale of an imaginary product under trademark law has been considered by a court before...

New slogan? (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647636)

So what are they planning on replacing "Pork: The other white meat" with?

Pork: Hardly anybody gets Trichinosis these days!

Pork: Now with Bacon!

Pork: You know you love to do it!

Pork: If you were a Christian, you could be eating it now!

Re:New slogan? (1)

El_Oscuro (1022477) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648402)

The weird shit is that my mom always use to tell me to thoroughly cook pork so we don't get Trichinosis. Meanwhile in those days I had no problems eating raw ground beef. And chicken - don't get me started there... I never seem to hear anything about contaminated pork these days....

its a win-win! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647686)

I think indirectly at least amongst geeks this has raised the national pork board's status in the media. Yes they had to protect it but really when was the last time YOU thought about the national pork board? I don't think I ever did. Free funny publicity for both parties and a good honest chuckle, everyone is happy. This is better than hearing about ecological calamities, luckily we don't have one of those happening right now...

$1 says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32647894)

that their IT guys phished them into doing it. . .

Parodies of trademarks are not protected (3, Informative)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#32647900)

Dot-com dead pool brakes for Ford [cnet.com]

Under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995, a person can be held to have infringed upon a trademark for "tarnishing" it by using it in a negative context. The famous example is a case in which the slogan "Enjoy Cocaine" was used in Coca Cola's distinctive script and was judged an infringement without the more typical trademark litmus test of creating confusion in the marketplace.

"Parody under the law doesn't magically fend off trademark infringements," said Gregory Phillips, attorney with Howard Phillips and Andersen. "In our view, this is the same thing as 'Enjoy Cocaine.'"

Re:Parodies of trademarks are not protected (1)

hguorbray (967940) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648128)

yeah -except the trademarked phrase is 'The Other White Meat' and TGs is The 'New White Meat'

can't believe no one has pointed this out yet

-I'm just sayin'

Re:Parodies of trademarks are not protected (1)

Sabriel (134364) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648278)

they have, and you may also note that the post you reply to refers to a parody case in which the parody was done in the style of the parodied trademark, just as (in my not-a-lawyer opinion) "the new white meat" is being in the style of "the other white meat". That said, in my same non-lawyer opinion, parody should be a defence against trademark infringement just as it is copyright infringement.

Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648088)

Ironic since:

1) The porkers are abandoning "The Other White Meat" saying;

2) Good pork is pink just like beef. Buy pastured pork. Much better than the CAFO trash.

3) CAFO white pork was an accident, a bug, that they featured. Couldn't fix it.

hmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648124)

Are you guys sure this isnt an ad for thinkgeek?

Oh please, this is the same "brave" Slashdot that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648126)

...bent over like a $10 whore the instant the minions of Ron Hubbard made a threat.

http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/01/03/16/1256226.shtml [slashdot.org]

Before people start praising Taco for standing up to the pork industry, this is like standing up to a child. Stand up to someone who really has muscle, like Scientology or Muslims, then we'll be impressed.

Re:Oh please, this is the same "brave" Slashdot th (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648356)

Bend over? More like a judo toss. Did you even read the subsequent reply Slashdot posted after following them through?

Are you kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32648182)

Seriously, dude. There are WAY too many lawyers in this country!

Can't fix stupid! (1)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 3 years ago | (#32648390)

Some people are born stupid, others work at. Lawyers prove you can do both!
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