Can a Tweet Take Down a Cease and Desist?
By: Marcie Valerio
Excerpted from Law Technology News
When Vermont T-shirt maker Bo Muller-Moore started printing "Eat More Kale" shirts in 2001, he said, he had never heard of Southern chicken restaurant empire Chick-fil-A Inc. and its "Eat Mor Chikin" ad campaign. A kale farmer suggested the kale catchphrase to Muller-Moore, and he started making the T-shirts as a hobby with his autistic foster son.
Although Chick-fil-A has no Vermont restaurants, the company eventually heard of Muller-Moore. In 2006, he fended off cease-and-desist letters from the company with help from a pro bono lawyer. Last year, Chick-fil-A surfaced again to oppose his 2011 trademark application, which is still pending.
This time Muller-Moore, of Montpelier, dug in for a fight against what he considered Chick-fil-A's "trademark bullying."
Trademark bullying refers to aggressive tactics against parties, usually individuals or much smaller companies, for using terms or phrases a trademark owner considers too similar to its marks. In the past few years, accused infringers are using social media to fight back. The Internet spotlight can create a backlash against overaggressive trademark owners, even if they have legitimate claims.
"Social media has really leveled the playing field to some extent in these kinds of disputes," said Stephen Baird, who heads the intellectual property and trademark and brand management practice groups at Minneapolis-based Winthrop & Weinstine. "It used to be that a small business owner gets a demand letter and they fold up pretty quickly."
Released: Oct 22, 2012 02:35 PM
Keywords: Industry News | Social Media
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