Jack Daniel’s: Not a Trademark Bully
Here’s an interesting story that’s been making the rounds of the Internet. It’s enough to make even a jaded trademark lawyer like me smile. It’s about how an extremely famous brand was able to protect its trademark rights while doing everything they could to help out the small business on the other side. And it’s nonfiction, believe it or not. Read on for more…
Author Patrick Wensink wrote a novel called “Broken Piano for President,” published by Lazy Fascist Press. The novel has been described as “a comic masterpiece about the fast food industry, booze, and the necessity to choose happiness over work and security.” OK, that description is on the book’s own promotional website, but either way, it sounds pretty good.
It looks pretty good, too; in part, because the cover is a takeoff of the famous Jack Daniel’s logo.
JD, as you might expect, sent a letter to the author concerning their trademark rights in the logo. The surprise is that they did so in just about the nicest cease & desist letter I’ve ever come across. I’ve written before about the scourge of trademark bullies (for example, in my November 2011 blog post cleverly titled “Trademark Bullies.”) Jack seems eager to avoid falling into that category.
You can read the whole (one-page) letter here. To summarize, they explain the situation and why they have to enforce their rights, and they offer to help defray the costs of changing the cover for the second printing. I should note that Wensink declined the offer to help pay for the reprinting on the grounds that “[w]e’re proudly independent and don’t need any of that sweet corporate booze money to redo the cover.” But in a blog post, he did appear to give JD credit for at least being nice about the matter.
So this one comes out as more or less a win for all sides. Brand owners: take this to heart. Try to look for the win-win, and don’t come off like a bully or a tough guy unless it’s absolutely necessary.