Recently it was reported that America’s leading cereal manufacturer, Kellogg’s is suing a Californian non-profit organization, the Maya Archeology Initiative, claiming the nonprofit’s use of a toucan in its logo (left) too closely resembles Kellogg’s famous Fruit Loops cereal icon, Toucan Sam. Apparently Kellogg’s is trying to corner the market on both high-fructose breakfast cereals and cartoon toucan characters.
Kellogg’s is no stranger to filing lawsuits for brand infringement. In 1998, they sued Exxon over the oil company’s use of a tiger for a long-running ad campaign to “put a tiger in your tank.” Kellogg’s claimed that Exxon’s tiger bore too close a resemblance to their own famous icon, Tony the Tiger. Apparently, Kellogg’s is also trying to corner the market on cartoon tigers – perhaps with an eye to opening America’s first cartoon zoo.
Other leading consumer brands have followed Kellogg’s lead and have recently filed their own brand infringement claims. Some pending lawsuits include the following:
- Apple Computers is suing Jehovah Publishing for brand infringement for its blatant and longstanding use of the image of an apple in the opening chapter of its best-selling book, the Bible. Attorneys for Apple claim in their court filing that the negative association of the apple featured in the Garden of Eden has created confusion among Apple’s user base, many of whom have begun to worry about eternal damnation at the hand of the Almighty if they are tempted to use Apple products.
- The Little Caesars Pizza chain is suing the city of Ancient Rome for blatant brand infringement of Little Caesar’s iconic animated ancient Roman Caesar spokesperson in a toga in all of its print ads, television commercials and coupon offers. The company’s VP of Brand Management stated that a cursory tour of any decrepit Roman ruins bears an uncanny likeness to the dining area of a typical Little Caesar’s restaurant. They also plan to file injunctions against more than 2,000 college fraternities in an attempt to prevent them from hosting toga parties planned for Homecoming weekend unless they order their pizza from Little Caesar’s.
- Energizer Batteries is suing the Lutheran church of Waukesha, Wisconsin for brand infringement for their use of kids in Easter Bunny costumes in their annual Easter egg hunt, dating back to 1967. A spokesperson for the battery maker reports several dozen instances of very young Energizer customers doing scavenger hunts for the batteries and ingesting them, apparently confusing them with candy Easter Eggs. Energizer has also filed injunction papers against the Trix Cereal rabbit, the Cadbury bunny, and Volkswagen, maker of the Rabbit automobile, on similar brand infringement grounds, due to the fact that these other companies’ diverse product offerings all bear a striking resemblance to AA batteries.
- Mercedes Benz is suing Greenpeace on the grounds that a logo commonly associated with the international environmental activitist organization – the iconic peace symbol – bears an almost identical resemblance to Mercedes Benz’s classic hood ornament. A spokesperson for the auto maker stated that Greenpeace’s brand is associated with hippies, Peace Corps volunteers and unemployed graduate students majoring in French literature – hardly the type of people Mercedes wants purchasing their line of status symbol luxury cars. This creates enormous brand confusion in the minds of their target market of highly affluent male corporate executives engaged in tawdry affairs with their research assistant, Angela.
- The Cleveland Browns NFL football franchise has filed a lawsuit against Crayola Crayons, over the naming rights to the color brown, citing longstanding exclusive ownership rights to this word, which came from the team’s original head coach, Paul Brown. The Browns have generously offered Crayola a list of alternate names for the color, including “Dirt”, “Saharan Sunset”, and “Poopy”, but to date Crayola has been nonresponsive. This lack of cooperation has infuriated the Browns’ senior management, who are now reportedly so angry they are seeing red.
In these difficult economic times, when so many companies are struggling just to scrape together the funds to pay their senior executives seven-figure bonuses, it is encouraging to see enterprising companies coming up with creative ways to offset declining revenues with escalating damage awards.
It might not surprise some to learn that revenues at View from the Bleachers have been flat lately, leaving me no choice but to take aggressive legal action to protect my nationally known VFTB brand. That’s why I have begun a series of lawsuits against the following organizations for brand infringement:
My list also includes approximately 270 other organizations with the name bleachers or view or the in the title. I plan to sue for emotional pain and suffering and lost market share. I think I have a particularly strong case against those weasels over at ABC’s daytime talk show, The View. They look like they have deep pockets. I’m pretty sure they even stole my font. They’ll pay for that.
I am also thinking of suing the publishers of the Bible’s First Book of Timothy, for obvious brand infringement and defamation of character. I think the reasons are self-explanatory.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base. And God bless the American legal system.
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2011