Search Marketers Declare War On Pork
Pork may be like mother's milk to some, but a very few of them would confuse the two because, in general, people understand metaphors. Lawyers don't. Lawyers don't get metaphors, even if they did really well on the analogies portion of their LSATs. Search marketer Jennifer Laycock suddenly finds herself trying to teach this subtle nuance of language to lawyers, and the entire SEM community is her assistant.
We remember Jennifer for her numerous presentations at Search Engine Strategies conferences, and for the founding of the Lactivist project, a double-barreled approach, if you will, to teaching how to market websites on a budget while promoting the right to breastfeed in public.
With her Lactivist Breastfeeding Blog, Jennifer raises money for the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio by selling tee shirts with pithy slogans like "I play with my baby's food" or "that's my baby's lunch you're staring at."
All was fun and boobs until Jennifer created a new shirt and put it up for sale at Cafepress. The shirt read, "the other white milk." When the trademark lawyers National Pork Board became abreast of the situation (yes, I know puns are lazy writing), they couldn't help but find the similarity between Jennifer's Lactivist slogan and their own company's "Pork: the other white meat" slogan.
What they couldn't find was their sense of humor. Or their Figurative Speech Study Guide. Or their notes on Fair Use.
Finding those notes would have saved National Pork Board attorney Jennifer Daniel Collins some time, for they surely would have addressed concepts like "the purpose and character of use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes" and "use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied."
And maybe finding those notes would have negated the fear that someone might confuse pork with breast milk because of the slogan, or the worries over the potentially tarnished reputation of pork.
So Collins fired off a letter, part of which read:
Pork Board's mark in light of your apparent attempt to promote the use of breastmilk beyond merely for infant consumption, such as with the following slogans on your website in close proximity to the slogan "The Other White Milk." "Dairy Diva," "Nursing, Nature's Own Breast Enhancement," "Eat at Mom's, fast-fresh-from the breast," and "My Milk is the Breast."
Because clearly, this is not at all funny.
The National Pork Board demanded Laycock stop displaying the slogan and destroy all merchandise displaying the slogan. The National Pork Board would be forced to seek a judgment for all profits made in connection with the sale of the tee shirt.
All eight dollars of profit.
"Are you freaking kidding me?" asks as puzzled Ms. Laycock about the "lawyer crafted nasty gram." "It's not like I'm selling a shirt that says 'Breastfed babies don't grow up to be porkers.' [. . .]
"I understand that Trademark law requires that a company 'zealously' protect their trademark so that they can continue to hold on to it. Unfortunately, the ease of the Internet makes it really easy to fire off templated legalese emails at anyone and everyone that even comes CLOSE to the concept of the trademark. Big companies know that most bloggers have neither the time nor the resources to fight back, so even if the big company doesn't have a case, they win."
The SEM community seems to agree.
"I've heard breasts called many things but never have I heard them considered pork or pork products. Ditto breastmilk," says SEMigod Danny Sullivan.
"Oh my gosh, the whole trademark world just checked itself into the looney-bin," writes Marketing Pilgrim's Andy Beal. [. . .] "I can see it now, millions of confused consumers walking into their local grocery store and accidentally picking up a gallon, instead of some bacon and ham."
"Sure, female breasts are plump and juicy," interjects web strategy consultant Cameron Olthuis, "but who the hell is going to think of pork when they see a slogan like that?"
Well, I can think of a few people, but it's usually a euphemism for something else. Something dirty.
And so, rather than standing there like deer in headlights, or a couple of knots, or big ol' Nancies, just about the entire SEM community is chiming in on blogs, all of which are duly noted on Laycock's blog, and are threatening the National Pork Board with a Google bomb if they don't back off.
"First, drop the National Pork Board a line through this contact form," advises Sullivan. "They've given her until 5pm Mountain Time on Feb. 5 to respond. The counter-action from our end is they have until that time to stop a link bombing campaign in her support. [. . .] if they keep going after her, I saw everyone links to Jennifer's article this way: Back Off National Pork Board. I've made that nofollow for now. But with no-nofollow links like that from across the web, there's a pretty good chance the article will start ranking well for the phrase 'National Pork Board'."
All's fair in love and pork, I suppose.
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