Part of protecting a trademark involves monitoring potential infringing trademarks on the market, which often involves attorneys drafting cease and desist letters. On occasion, these trademark holders go above and beyond, sending aggressive letters in an attempt to protect a trademark. The result is comedic stories that are passed along the internet.
Back on April Fool’s Day in 2010, the parody website ThinkGeek launched a fake product, boasting a canned unicorn meat. ThinkGeek used the tagline, “Pate is passe. Unicorn, the new white meat.” The National Pork Board, who owns the trademark for “the other white meat” did not seem to catch on to the joke, sending a 12 page cease and decist letter. In response ThinkGeek apologized noting, “In fact, ThinkGeek’s canned unicorn meat is sparkly, a bit red, and not approved by any government entity.”
In St. Louis a local brewery used Starbuck’s term Frappucino to describe one of the brews being offered. In a letter Starbucks demanded the brewery stop using the name for their beer, stating they feared there would be consumer confusion. The brewery responded in a comical way, sending Starbucks the six dollars it made on the sale of the brew, noting that us small businesses need to stick together.
The takeaway? Sometimes being overburdensome and aggressive is not the best market approach.
See Chris Schwegmann, Laughable Moments: When Trademark Holders are Overprotective, IP Watchdog (Mar. 5, 2017), http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2017/03/05/laughable-moments-trademark-holders-overprotective/id=79061/.