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.

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

LAMEBOOK v. FACEBOOK – Hilarity Ensues and Sues

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Fans of the movie The Social Network know that after Facebook took off, there was a line out the door suing Mark Zuckerberg.  But when it comes to trademarks, Facebook knows that sometimes imitation, while the sincerest form of flattery, can be bad for trademarks.

Facebook is going after numerous uses of marks containing -BOOK, including TEACHBOOK, PLACEBOOK and now LAMEBOOK.  Actually, that last one is actually suing Facebook for a judgment declaring that it does not infringe or dilute the FACEBOOK trademark, after Facebook sent several warning letters telling they they’d better stop.

Called a “hilarious, advertising-supported site” by TechCrunch, LAMEBOOK posts user-submitted content taken from another social networking site (hmm, which one) that the submitting user finds to be lame and funny.  Well, I think hilarity is not likely to save this advertising-supported site.  It’s the typical case of trademark v. First Amendment rights, and despite my love and respect of the latter, I just don’t think the parody defense will save these folks.  The fact that they’ve adopted a font style and color scheme just about identical to Facebook certainly does not help them.  I’ll be watching this one.

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment