One more reason ProPublica rocks

From their blog, Officials Say The Darndest Things:

“No consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.A judge, summarizing the defense offered by Coca-Cola’s lawyers as to why the company’s marketing for vitaminwater isn’t deceptive.


P&G has devil of a time collecting damages in Satan case

That $19.25M they were supposed to get? Turns out that:

  1. The jurors guesstimated the amount based on what they think the lawyers charged.
  2. The judge — not the jury — gets to decide what, if any, lawyer fees can be awarded.
  3. The original judge thought it would be a cold day in … well you know … before P&G collected even if they proved the case.

The Satan Desk at Brandweek has the full details here.

When Tigger socks are outlawed, only outlaws will wear cheerful Disney branded cloth on their feet

Last year Toni Kay Scott, a student at Napa Valley’s Redwood Middle School, was sent to an in-school suspension program (with the wonderfully Orwellian-name of Students With Attitude Problems). Her crime? Violating a dress code by wearing socks with Tigger on them, along with a denim skirt and a brown shirt with a pink border.

Said code requires clothes with solid colors in blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown and black. Permitted fabrics are cotton twill, corduroy and chino, but not denim.

To no one’s surprise a lawsuit has resulted. I fully expect Lee, Levis, Disney and (RED) to file amicus curiae brief on behalf of Ms. Scott. I, on the other hand, will try to trademark the phrase Students With Attitude Problems.

Now that dogs have beer, Washington state wants to make sure they have a place to drink it

A sure sign that Washington state has solved all of its real problems: Sen. Ken Jacobsen (a Democrat, like you couldn’t have guessed) has introduced a bill to allow bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to welcome dogs — er, Canine-Americans — as long as they accompany their owners and remain leashed.

As someone who spent at least one evening in the company of a very charming golden retriever who actually drooled less than I did by closing time, I still think this is an incredibly stupid piece of legislation.

Canada court rules Barbie is “superficial and bland.” Huzzah!

In what is clearly a triumph for common sense over trademark law, Canada's high court has decided that consumers won't confuse the lumps of plastic with the independent Montreal chain of Barbie restaurants.

Reuters reports that Justice Ian Binnie wrote, "There is no evidence that adult consumers would consider a doll manufacturer to be a source of good food, still less that the Barbie trademark would be understood to guarantee … 'character and quality'."

He quoted a dictionary definition of Barbie doll as "a female who is superficially attractive in a conventional way, especially with blue eyes and blond hair, but who lacks personality."

"In that regard, the association of the Barbie doll with food might be taken as a warning of blandness," Binnie jibed.

As a result of this ruling I am moving to Canada and opening a chain of GI Joe pastry shops. So there. 

Quick takes

  1. Intentionally or unintentionally ironic? From the Journal's website: Video: Bush on economy | Snow on jobs
  2. Really pissed that Dan Brown was found not guilty in the Da Vinci Code plagiarism case. Not that I think he stole any of it, I was just hoping someone would be made to pay for writing a book that bad.
  3. Fox News hard at work. This is their lead from the Bush dropped the dime on Valerie Plame story: WASHINGTON — President Bush was defending the War on Terror to an audience in North Carolina on Thursday, just as word came that newly filed court documents reveal Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney authorized Cheney's former chief of staff to release classified information about Iraq in July 2003. What, other than getting the phrase War On Terror into the sentence does the first part of the sentence have to do with the second?
  4. Product innovations I really don't understand: Oblong Oreos — allegedly better for dunking.

More proof that India has a thriving Western-style society

11-year-old sues company for ruining his brand, er, name.

Hari Bhanot, 11, of India is suing the job search site over a TV ad. Quoth the AP

In the offending ad, a man makes a dinner reservation for his obviously obnoxious boss, named Hari Sadu, by saying: "That's H for Hitler, A for Arrogant, R for Rascal and I for … Idiot."

The ad ends with the line: "Guess who's just heard from us."

But Mr. Bhanot says ever since the spots started running his classmates have been calling him Hitler. The family says it asked the company to stop running the ads. The company declined, but did send a box of chocolates. That’s when Mr. Bhanot’s father decided to sue for $225,000. Memo to the management: Next time send better chocolates.

BTW, it’s Constantine von Hoffman™.

Waiting for the Spam to hit the fan

Spam Cube has hit the big time — it got reviewed in today's NYTimes. My guess is this will catch the attention of the folks at Hormel and get them to send that cease-and-desist letter about using their trademark. Or it won't and the folks at Spam Cube will get the last laugh on me.

Williams-Sonoma gets hit with a very sticky court case

What would happen if you put three pounds of marshmallows in the microwave, set in on high and cooked for three minutes? You'd get marshmallow fluff, but you wouldn't get Marshmallow Fluff™ which is the trademark of Durkee-Mower Inc. If you put peanut butter and either Fluff™ or fluff together you would get a classic, at least here in New England, called Fluffernutter. If you tried to package that further and sell it as a candy you would get sued. Which is just what happened to food concept retailer Williams Sonoma. According to the Boston Globe, Durkee-Mower has sued WS and demanded it "stop selling tins of a candy bar called the Fluffernutter, a name 86-year-old Durkee-Mower trademarked in 1961." The Globe reports that Don Durkee, the company's 80-year-old president, is truly amused that the words Fluffernutter and "intellectual property" are appearing together in any context. You go, Don!

Friday’s quote of the day: “This is a case about bubbles.”

network 3The opening sentence in a ruling handed down (up? I was never sure of this) by Mr Justice Lewison in the UK about a TV ad campaign by phone service provider O2 filed by rival Network 3 whose graphic brand identifier is, you guessed it, bubbles. Although I couldn’t find any such on their website. Quoth the Guardian: [Network 3 had] sought an injunction to have the adverts pulled, but the high court did not accept arguments that the price comparison used was inaccurate or unfair.He said bubbling imagery was commonplace in advertising, citing campaigns for Aero chocolate bars, Oral-B Sonic toothbrushes, Colgate Oxygen toothpaste, British Airways flights and Microsoft Office. There was no possibility of viewers confusing the two networks and 3’s campaign had not discredited O2’s trademark, he said.

Could I request that all rulings in this sort of case begin with this phrase, just to keep everything in moral context?

Why DC and Marvel comics both suck

Before the Red Sox and even before Ernie Banks, my first true religious devotion was Marvel Comics. My buddies and I felt about the difference between Marvel (Spiderman, Thor, The Avengers, et al) and DC (Superman, Batman, etc.) the way people today feel about Apple/Windows, but at least we were arguing over something important. I worshipped at the alter of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, John Buscema and countless others. I highly recommend Lee’s Orgins of Marvel Comics, it’s a fun read (but you can’t have my copy, it’s autographed. My mom got his autograph for me while attending some academic conference, nyah nyah.) If you admitted to liking DC you were beyond the pale (suffice to say many of us strayed in the privacy of our own collections, but that’s another story). And when Kirby went over to DC? Serious theological issues…

Over the years I have become more ecumenical in tastes. Books like Kingdom Come (in which Superman very seriously has doubts about his legacy) and others have shown me that DC could indeed be good. (One big distinction between the two brands when I was young: All of the dialogue in DC comics ended in EXCLAMATION MARKS! Marvel, it seems, had discovered the period.)


But know I say, a pox on both their corporately owned houses. They have teamed up to form a Dastardly Duo of idiocy by jointly filing a trademark on the word “super-hero.” They are using it to harass indie comics. And worse, quoth BoingBoing: The latest trick in its move to steal the word is using the ™ symbol in the bumpf for its California science centre show — they’ve recruited a science museum to help them steal “super-hero.” Y’know, I was actually looking forward to that show until I read this. This is just loathsome, stupid corporate tactics. It’s a waste of company resources and an insult to the people who buy your product.

Now that’s super villainy. C’mon True Believers, it’s CLOBBERIN’ TIME!™

FYI, too prove I am still the geek I always was…my list of comic books you really should read.

  • Astro City: Superb story telling and a great vision of what it might be like if Super-heroes™ existed in the “real world.” The book that re-ignited my interest in comics after about a decade away from the breed. Sadly it now seems to be on a “whenever we get around to it” production schedule, so check out the collections.
  • Top Ten (written by Alan Moore): Super-heroes™ meet Hill Street Blues.
  • Marvels: The problem with having Super-heroes™ around, from the point of view of the rest of us.
  • Powers: Super-heroes™ as film noir.
  • Sandman by Neil Gaiman: What great post-modern myth-making is all about. Pretty much impossible to over-rate. Also the Bible of The Goth Movement. The only thing better in the graphic novel category is Spiegelman’s Maus, which just exists on a whole different level of art.
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (written by Alan Moore): Victorian-era Super-heroes™ Quartermain, Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man and Capt. Nemo confront Wells’ invaders from Mars in an odd parable of morality and mortality.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: The ultimate fascist Super-hero™ vs. the ultimate fascist state. Fine political satire from the 1980s that has aged very well.
  • The Watchmen (written by Alan Moore): The first great re-imagining of Super-heroes™. Definitive.
  • Cerebus – the first two volumes are essential and hillarious, after that creator Dave Sim wanders far, far off the reservation. Still it’s an interesting, if unnecessary, trip.
  • Uncle Sam: Strange and interesting political satire. Uncle Sam as a Super-hero™ vs Uncle Sam as icon (no tm as of yet).
  • Marvel 1602: After many failed attempts to re-imagine its characters in a new setting, Marvel gets it right. To no surprise, that’s because it was written by Neil Gaiman.

“Male performance enhancing” pills don’t work? Next you’ll tell me Barry Bonds took steroids…

So P&G ain’t the only ones being sued for bogus ads. The makers of the “nutraceutical” Enzyte, whose cheesey-yet-amusing euphemism-filled ads for “male performance enhancing” pills feature Smiling Bob and his off-camera boner, are paying $2.5 million to settle a multi-state suite about unsubstantiated claims and automatically billing consumers for products they never requested.

Steve Warshak of Cincinnati and five dietary supplement firms he owns — Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, Inc. and four subsidiaries: Boland Naturals, Inc.; Lifekey, Inc.; Wagner Nutraceuticals, Inc.; and Warner Health Care, Inc. — agreed to the settlement with the Attorneys General of 18 states and Washington D.C. Anybody sell a “male wallet enhancement” nutraceutical?