The National Pork Board is going after a website for modifying the trademarked slogan it uses to advertise a product that doesn’t exist: unicorn meat.
Legal representation of The National Pork Board (N.P.B.) issued a ‘cease and desist’ letter to ThinkGeek.com for advertising a fake product as “the new white meat”, one of the site’s web designers posted at its blog. (h/t: Molly Wood and Chris Matyszczyk)
The product, posted earlier this year at ThinkGeek.com’s online store as an April Fool’s joke, is Radiant Farms’ Canned Unicorn Meat. If you’re curious enough to attempt purchasing it, the site notifies you of the joke. Not to mention—unicorns don’t exist.
The 12-page letter is “very well-researched”, “includes screengrabs of the offending item”, according to ThinkGeek, and “they’re not messing around because they invested in the best and brightest legal minds”.
Here’s a photo of the crime scene:
The N.P.B., which claims a trademark on “The Other White Meat”, has planned “to replace its ubiquitous advertising slogan”, Luke Meredith reported this month at the Associated Press.
The site released a public apology to the N.P.B. June 21 [.pdf].
“It was never our intention to cause a national crisis and misguide American citizens regarding the differences between the pig and the unicorn,” GeekNet president and chief executive Scott Kauffman said. “In fact, ThinkGeek‘s uncanned unicorn meat is quite sparkly, a bit red, and not approved by an government entity.”
As part of their apology for such a societal crime, the site will take $10 off of all orders over $40 if customers use the promo code “PORKBOARD” at checkout. The offer is good through June 30.
In 2007, the N.P.B. sent a similar letter to a beastfeeding advocacy site for selling T-shirts reading, “the Other White Milk”. “ThinkGeek says it’s confident that its use of the slogan is protected as parody by fair-use laws.” Dan Eggen reported at The Washington Post. “Either that, or by the unicorns.”
The N.P.B. stated that it’s aware unicorns don’t exist and acknowledge the humor, but are threatening civil action. TechDirt aptly noted that “only in cases where the mark is actually likely to cause confusion or is not used in a manner that is clearly fair use (such as a parody, as in this case). So, like unicorns, the NPB’s claim that they had to send this cease-and-desist is nothing more than a myth.”
As ridiculous as this legal action is, it’s justified by U.S. copyright law. There is no way to modify copyright law to nullify a potential claim by the N.P.B. without abolishing copyright law. The question isn’t about who was the first to combine certain words to sell meat, according to government documents. The question is: who owns words?
This question is at the heart of scrutinizing ‘intellectual property’ constructs to every degree. Until copynazis to meet a burden of proof to justify using force to prevent the communal usage of words, patterns, ideas in transforming their justly owned property, the laws they want enforce ought not exist.
The copynazis should have to cease and desist.