Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee, You Cheapen my Trademark, You’re Cheapening Me!

Many years ago, I was in a diner with friends when Muhammad Ali came in.  Naturally lots of people rushed up to see him, and I got crushed up against him for a moment.  As I strained my neck to look up and see his face, I thought, this is a big guy!  (I never did find out why the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay was in a diner in Bergenfield, New Jersey.)

That has no bearing on this bit of trademark news, except that they both involve Muhammad Ali.  His publicity manager, Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC, is suing Kobo Inc. for using Ali’s phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” to advertise its e-readers, accusing Kobo of cheapening Ali’s brand.  Kobo also used quotations from reviews of the product that included “a real contender”, which Ali Enterprises says is a reinforcement of Ali’s persona.

Ali Enterprises has trademark registrations covering series of fiction and nonfiction books about athletes as well as various stationery-type items, clothing, mugs, lunch boxes and the like.  If you’re so inclined you can view the details of the registrations here and here.  (Is the mark really in use for all those goods?)

Kobo has other problems — it’s the e-reader that’s been heavily promoted by and aligned with Borders, which announced that it is shutting down completely.  Kobo may not be so much of a contender.  In any event, their choice of tag line got them crushed up against Muhammad Ali, and he’s a big guy.


July 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment