Are they doing enough to protect “the other white meat” phrase? I don’t think so.
First things first – an apology was issued.
I had some thoughts from observing the blogstorm that resulted from the National Pork Board, represented by Faegre and Benson, sending a threatening Cease and Desist letter to Jennifer Laycock of The Lactivist and Search Engine Guide. Jennifer and I have had a number of discussions about the nature of blogging and corporate responsibility.
The National Pork Board contacted Jennifer and gave her a very sincere apology, and they are talking to her about rectifying the situation. Knowing Jennifer, she’s not out for herself. She’s mainly upset at the derogatory remarks made about breastfeeding made by Faegre and Benson lawyer, Jennifer Daniel Collins. Interestingly, there has been no word from Faegre and Benson, about this issue. It makes me wonder if this C&D letter was written with knowledge from the Pork Board, or if this was the result of the firms’ actions. Regardless, someone made the call, and the incorrect judgments, inflammatory statements and fuzzy legal interpretations came with Ms. Collins name attached.
The Power Shift
Here’s my take on this Blogstorm and from observing many others. Corporate attorneys are not popular. (Say it isn’t so!) But really, in the past, corporate attorneys, especially Intellectual Property lawyers were able to send out threatening C&D letters to anyone and intimidate them into complicity. What we have been witnessing lately is a complete reversal of that power, and I can name many situations in the past year to support this assessment.
The power is now in the hands of the citizen marketer, especially one with a personal blog. Anyone who has a dispute with a corporation or a corporate attorney can now bring their case to the court of public opinion and have it heard by thousands of their peers. As any attorney knows, the court of public opinion is critical, and almost more important than anything that happens in a courtroom. The citizens are able to bring their case online and have it analyzed by other practicing attorneys, apply to the Digital Rights Foundation, or bring attention to their matter with a few posts, emails, and contacts with the right people.
This means that we are closing the era of unleashed corporate attorneys who intimidate small businesses and individuals with confusing legalese and strong-arm tactics. The blogosphere crackles to life when these situations happen because it feeds the frenzy. The crowd mentality develops its own sense of justice.
The culture is changing, and bloggers are building a louder voice and capturing more of the public opinion. Their word spreads faster and with more momentum. A press release is like a cymbal in the storm when bloggers are in full swing. I am interested to see where this goes in the future, and how many more cases will be tried in the blogosphere. Bloggers don’t speak legalese; we have conversations with each other. When another person, usually a corporation or an advertiser, enters the conversation with a sense of entitlement to be heard, it will be rejected. One-way messages don’t work here.
Now, a personal judgment.
I did a simple search on Google for the “trademarked” phrase, “The other white meat.” What I found in the first four pages of results had me scratching my head. I found amazingly blatant examples of trademark infringement on the EXACT phrase. Why go after a breastfeeding mom with a “small” blog, who isn’t even using the same words, when there are blatant examples so easily found?
Here are some of the Google results for “The other white meat”
PrankPlace.com, selling T-Shirts with the slogan “Cat: The Other White Meat”
Animal Defense Militia, “Grandpa, the other white meat”
The Urban Dictionary – multiple phrases, including “Baby, the other white meat”
Amazon.com, book –“Poodle: The Other White Meat”
Seattle Weekly – Video – “Eat Whale the Other White Meat”
CaféPress, T-Shirt with the slogan “Cat: The Other White Meat”
The Washington Post – “Cicada, The Other, other white meat”
Snopes: Website – “Rat: The Other White Meat”
Movie: Porn Industry – Pink: the other white meat
YouTube, Mars Volta concert footage of the song “Abortion: the other white meat”
You have to be kidding me
Is this enough to make you sick to your stomach about the choice of target for Faegre and Benson lawyers? They go after a mother who is raising money for the cause of helping premature babies, and ignoring the blatant, tasteless and even offensive trademark infringement that is within well within their ability to find. Yet breastfeeding has tarnished their client’s good image? How about the association with abortion, the adult film industry, and whale hunting?
One blogger noticed 56 copyright violations on Cafe Press of THE ACTUAL PHRASE! Now, why target one CafePress user, who has a shirt that is a play on the phrase rather than the actual phrase itself? And why did CafePress quickly remove Jennifer’s shirt and not any of these other, more obvious infringements? What kind of legal tactic is this, where they ignore the elephant in the room?
My deduction is that Jennifer looked like an easy target. However, if they would have taken the time to read her blog they would have quickly realized that Jennifer was fresh off organizing a protest against Delta Airlines for their “boob” job.
Looking to the future
I hope this is a shot across the bow, as blogs are changing the way and the speed that people communicate. It doesn’t take long to communicate to like-minded people, and most of them will do what they can to do bring light to a situation they feel is unjust.
However, it doesn’t have to be all bad. Good news travels too, not as fast, but many bloggers are just as willing to compliment business for their professionalism and god works as well.
Thanks to the Pork Board, for apologizing and doing what is right, though I suspect they were a third part in all of this, they are still doing the right thing with the apology and working things out with Jennifer.
Pork Board protects image While I have Beef for Dinner