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The (Other) Other White Meat
June 26, 2010 4:59 PM   Subscribe

The National Pork Board believes in unicorns. Or, at least, its lawyers seem to think that canned unicorn meat is a real product.

From ThinkGeek.com's press release(PDF):
"It was never our intention to cause a national crisis and misguide American citizens regarding the differences between the pig and the unicorn," said Scott Kauffman, President and CEO of Geeknet. In fact, ThinkGeek's canned unicorn meat is sparkly, a bit red, and not approved by any government entity."
posted by emilyd22222 (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was going to point out how protected they were, but they already did that. I wrote the NPB once, but they didn't write back. The bastards!
posted by cjorgensen at 5:19 PM on June 26, 2010


These big organizations need a full-time employee whose job it is to say, "We shouldn't do this. We'll just embarrass ourselves."
posted by grumblebee at 5:28 PM on June 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


That isn't actually what the letter says. It's a pretty unremarkable (if heavy-handed) cease-and-desist letter: ThinkGeek used somebody else's slogan and was asked to stop. Their interpretation of the letter is pretty tortured—and coupled with how hard they've been trying to get media to pick up this 'story' over the past few days, it makes them look rather desperate for attention. There's a reason it was "rejected by the newswires."
posted by cribcage at 5:30 PM on June 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


I had unicorn for dinner. But it was fresh unicorn. I don't eat the canned stuff.
posted by dortmunder at 5:46 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


cribcage : It's a pretty unremarkable (if heavy-handed) cease-and-desist letter: ThinkGeek used somebody else's slogan and was asked to stop.

While true, I have to agree with grumblebee - When a comedy-oriented organization "infringes" on something you have the rights to... Just let it slide. It will always cause them more damage to respond to such (arguably protected as parody) uses than to just pretend they never saw it.
posted by pla at 5:49 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


While true, I have to agree with grumblebee - When a comedy-oriented organization "infringes" on something you have the rights to... Just let it slide.

I'm pretty sure that if you don't defend your trademarks, you lose them.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 6:03 PM on June 26, 2010


No, the Pork Board and its lawyers don't think that canned unicorn meat is real. I'd bet the lawyers laughed about this at home, and they probably thought--if you had asked one of them over a beer at a bar--that the ThinkGeek send-up was funny.

Fact is, though, ThinkGeek was using TNPB's registered (and famous) THE OTHER WHITE MEAT trademark as part of its joke about a fake strange meat product. It's not far fetched to see this an unauthorized use of the type that large (and even small) companies send cease and desist letters about every day. TNPB can make a claim--which is all TNPB needs to issue a cease and desist letter--that ThinkGeek is damaging the value of NPB's registration on the basis that some pork-consumers could see the ThinkGeek joke next to "THE OTHER WHITE MEAT" and believe (wrongly of course) that the ThinkGeek piece was sponsored by TNPB.

Or, that people could see the ThinkGeek joke, understand that it has nothing to do with the National Pork Board, but take ThinkGeek's joke as evidence that anyone is free to use "THE OTHER WHITE MEAT" slogan however they want.

No trademark owner wants that. And they don't usually just "let it slide," because a trademark owner can lose their registration that way.

Bottom line, like cribcage says, its an unremarkable letter. The ThinkGeek guys are going overboard trying to make a Monty Python sketch out of what is actually a very banal situation.
posted by applemeat at 6:06 PM on June 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


So trademark protects you from parody now?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:17 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


applemeat: "ThinkGeek was using TNPB's registered (and famous)THE OTHER WHITE MEAT"

Well, their material said "the new white meat", not other. According to the letter though, other sites not under their control were using "other" when linking to it. It's certainly an allusion to it, but I'm not sure that counts in trademark. Did an idiot in a hurry mistake unicorn meat for pork?
posted by pwnguin at 6:21 PM on June 26, 2010


I always find it funny when people freak out about this. The Pork Board created a trademark, a thing that has real value. If you don't know it has value, consider that you likely knew what "the other white meat" was before you ever heard of this specific case.

They're defending their property.

Now get off my lawn.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:23 PM on June 26, 2010


"ThinkGeek used somebody else's slogan"

Not really. They made a joke. Sort of a meh joke. But the pork board's reaction makes it a classic.

And no, you don't lose your trademark if you fail to C&D anyone who uses it in a satire.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:28 PM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: An idiot in a hurry.
posted by fixedgear at 6:29 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is pork really white meat or is this just clever marketing? That was my question for them. Personally I think it's just branding, but I do wonder what constitutes "white" meat.

In the end though is doesn't really matter to me, since I was once witness to a swine castration and the person doing it threw the discarded testicles into the slop where the pig proceeded to....

Never mind, just say I never ate pig again.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:33 PM on June 26, 2010


I'm pretty sure that if you don't defend your trademarks, you lose them.

True, if there is likely to be confusion in the marketplace. THAT'S the point of trademarks. Crown gas and Crown books can safely coexist because nobody is likely to confuse the two.

It's not "Intellectual Property" it's protection against false advertising.

Are there any actual hurried morons confused by the difference between pork and a fictional unicorn meat? I'm serious. Raise your hands and be counted as disgruntled (potential) consumers.

Lawyers are excused from this exercise.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


And no, you don't lose your trademark if you fail to C&D anyone who uses it in a satire.

So trademark protects you from parody now?

How is this satire or parody? Who or what is ThinkGeek parodying? What's their message? Certainly there are political and first amendment aspects to satire and parody that can defend an unauthorized user against infringement, but again, how do you suppose this applies here?
posted by applemeat at 6:43 PM on June 26, 2010


That shit in the can is all chimp, anyway.

It's pretty good, but it's still chimp.
posted by metagnathous at 6:43 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute....unicorns aren't real, what the fuck!? Next you will tell me that Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy don't exist!
posted by Fizz at 6:44 PM on June 26, 2010


ya know, I read that as the "National Park Board" and was hoping there had been an introduction of a new species...

/leaves disappointed
posted by HuronBob at 6:46 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn. I'm a big fan of pork, but this seems to be a bit over the top.
posted by carter at 6:48 PM on June 26, 2010


I do wonder what constitutes "white" meat.

Well, it has to do with the amount of myoglobin in the meat and the difference between fast and slow twitch muscles. With modern breeds of animals the difference has become blurred; neither pork nor chicken thighs should be white meat, but now they are.
posted by TedW at 6:49 PM on June 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


There's Ted with the answers to all my questions. Again.a
posted by cjorgensen at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2010


Next you will tell me that Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy don't exist!

Relax. Both The Santa Clause and Tooth Fairy exist (as sorry as that is).
posted by Servo5678 at 7:01 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


How is this satire or parody? Who or what is ThinkGeek parodying? What's their message?

Your failure to perceive "canned unicorn meat" as satire does not mean it is not satirical. For obvious reasons.
posted by mek at 7:01 PM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


The dumbest thing about this is that the Unicorn Meat isn't even white.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:23 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, the Pork Board and its lawyers don't think that canned unicorn meat is real.

But following ChurchHatesTucker, their C&D letter only makes sense as a reasonably considered response if they believe that consumers might confuse unicorn meat with pork. This necessarily implies that they believe that unicorn meat is at some level real.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:38 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


No. Read Applemeat's comment, which lays it out pretty well. The issue is not whether consumers would be confused about the product, but whether they would be confused as to its source—for example, like Applemeat says, "that the ThinkGeek piece was sponsored by TNPB."
posted by cribcage at 7:41 PM on June 26, 2010


metafilter would over think a plate of unicorn meat.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:48 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


applemeat : How is this satire or parody? Who or what is ThinkGeek parodying?

1) If you got the reference, you have your answer.
2) If you didn't get it (um... wow?), then no harm, no foul.

In any case, I stand by my original point - Choosing to C&D something like this does not ever turn out well for the party that claims exclusive rights to a particular phrase in the English (or any other) language. Whether or not they have the law on their side...

Well, a restraining order doesn't keep your stalker from gutting you and feeding you to the unicorns. It just means he broke one more law in the process.


cribcage : The issue is not whether consumers would be confused about the product, but whether they would be confused as to its source

Why yes, yes, I would consider it plausible that the National Pork board had decided to destroy any semblance of legitimacy by expanding into the domain of canned fictional animal meats.


Some of you guys need to get out more. Just... wow. I think we can safely say that anyone that doesn't "get" it doesn't tend to buy their own food anyway.
posted by pla at 7:50 PM on June 26, 2010


Also, the lawyers' job is to defend the trademark. You might well think that their letter was superfluous, but I can't see why anyone should blame them for choosing to take an arguably-beneficial action when that's their job and they actually get paid for doing it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:51 PM on June 26, 2010


Joe in Australia : I can't see why anyone should blame them for choosing to take an arguably-beneficial action

Because, aside from the "billable hours" angle, only a madman would consider a C&D to a joke "beneficial".

All else aside (and this has a lot of peripheral issues), this one action to "defend" their trademark has done more to conflate "the other white meat" with "unicorn" in the public eye than anything I can even imagine any real competitor of the NPB ever attempting.

They have, effectively, diluted their own trademark in the name of defending it. Thinkgeek may provided the bullet, but NPB owned the gun, loaded that bullet into it, and took aim squarely at their own foot.
posted by pla at 8:05 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, TedW, is unicorn white meat then?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:15 PM on June 26, 2010


Can someone more familiar with copyright law tell me whether it matters here that the "product" wasn't actually being sold? Is it false advertising if there's no actual product or financial benefit for ThinkGeek (besides page hits)?
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2010


But you see, unicorns are not real. They're not worried that people will consume more unicorn meat because it's mentally-associated with pork. On the other hand, they surely dislike the idea of their slogan being used in unauthorised contexts or on unlicensed products. This probably trumped any hypothetical concern that people will start thinking that pigs are mythological creatures whose flesh is unavailable in stores.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:23 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone more familiar with copyright law tell me whether it matters here that the "product" wasn't actually being sold?

This isn't copyright law, but trademark law. Two different things. And no, it doesn't matter*. The fact that ThinkGeek makes (some of its) business selling real products that are satirical in nature is relevant, inasmuch as they are using someone else's trademark to develop valuable goodwill for their own store.



* A judge may feel differently. But what really matters to the Pork Board is that they took this action to defend their trademark, which they have a driving legal impetus to do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2010


Copyright and trademark are two different things. (And false advertising is a third.) This claim is about trademark. In simple terms, a trademark signals a source of goods.

Forget about ThinkGeek's attempt to turn a humdrum letter into comedy. Obviously, nobody believes that unicorns are real. But upon seeing the ad, somebody could think to themselves, "Hey, what a funny joke. And I know that slogan ("the other white meat") is trademarked, so the pork folks must be in on the joke. Those crazy bastards!" This is what is called likelihood of confusion, and it's the ballgame in trademark. Whether ThinkGeek benefits is a factor, but not a controlling one. The issue is whether a consumer might be confused as to the source.

Parody, by the way, is a defense (i.e., fair use)—which means it can get you off the hook if you are sued, but it doesn't immunize you against lawsuit. And in any case, TNPB wasn't going to sue ThinkGeek. They weren't going to do anything except send this letter. And primarily, the reason they sent this letter is so that when somebody legitimately tries to co-opt the slogan in five years, TNPB can pull out all the cease-and-desist letters they've sent to prove how hard they work to protect their trademark.
posted by cribcage at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2010


cribcage : And I know that slogan ("the other white meat") is trademarked, so the pork folks must be in on the joke.

You think way too much of your domain of expertise.

The average person's thoughts about "trademarks" extend to a passing annoyance at all the little "tm"s next to various seemingly-random words in the latest ad for life insurance their bank/CC sent them. Beyond that, you'd best take an Aspirin and save all your Kleenex for the Escalator ride to a Kerosene-fired Hell that awaits those who actually care about all the Xerox-copycats Zippering down the path to genericization, because the rest of us just couldn't care less.

Or to put it another way - As a non-lawyer, I have what I'd call a well-above-average familiarity with this issue in general (for obvious reasons, we geeks seem to keep butting heads with old-school IP law every other step we take). And if a week ago you'd offered me a million bucks to ID the owner of the trademark "the other white meat", I'd have walked away a very sad man.
posted by pla at 9:06 PM on June 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


WOW ... just wow.

They went with the "TRADEMARK DILUTION" bull instead of just copyright infringement? There are no words.

I mean, do you know how hard it is to prove trademark dilution?!?!? the market of UNICORN MEAT would have to be such that marketing it as the "new white meat" would indeed cause branding/trademark confusion.

how stupid can you be to base a C&D of this nature on trademark dilution?!?!?

i mean, if i had been the evil lawyer, i'd had gone with COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT because the DMCA in all it's fucked up glory was written so as for the parodist and/or fairuser to be considered guilty of infringment until they proven themselves innocents --and i ought to know because i've been looking down the barrel of that legal gun one too many times.

this is just WOW.

and to the people asking why this is parody, CHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILEDS!

it's a parody for some simple reasons:

1. Unicorns
2. The meat shown is not white
3. Unicorns
4. It's "the new" white mean because of
5. UNICORNS
6. it's on THINKGEEK a site known for its LOLtastic products
7. U!N!I!C!O!R!N!S!

you can't fight parodists with trademark dilution lawsuits.

and think about again : to claim trademark dilution, the market of unicorn meat has to be so massive as to have the potential of creating confusion. that's insanity right there.

now, trademark tarnishing should have been the one to use, but that one is rarely trotted out because you have to prove intent to harm the Porkers' trademark.

what's funny about this stupidity is that, contrary to what pla said about trademark dilution, the Porkers are the ones who with this C&D are tarnishing their own trademark/brand: by C&Ding a LOL site that's selling fake non-white UNICORN mean on April Fool's Day they look like morons and devalue their brand.

*facepalm*
posted by liza at 9:10 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


somebody could think to themselves, "Hey, what a funny joke. And I know that slogan ("the other white meat") is trademarked, so the pork folks must be in on the joke. Those crazy bastards!"

There are six billion people on this planet, and six billion holds a lot of dipshittery and a lot of bugfuck crazy. But I'm pretty confident you could scour the entire planet and not find a single person who would sincerely think that train of thought.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:26 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


....You know there was a long time where I thought 'the other white meat' was a refrence to cannibalism as I only ever saw it used in parody.

...
...
Mmmmm longpig.
posted by Canageek at 10:15 PM on June 26, 2010


If the ThinkGeek writer had used "the new other white meat" AND it were an actual product for sale (fictional unicorn or not; it could've been cans of cotton balls and glitter), there would have been a potential trademark dilution issue. But that was not what it was. Does the Pork Board send letters to every sitcom that uses "the other white meat" in a punchline? (Maybe.)

It was most likely just a way for some low-life lawyer (who probably laughed as hard as anybody) to bill the National Pork Board for useless services (and aren't a lot of lawyers' services essentially useless? isn't that in the top 10 reasons lawyers are so commonly hated?) without any regard for whatever negative publicity emerged. The lawyer should have billed ThinkGeek for promotional services.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:18 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unicorn has also been available in grey- and black-meat varieties to the intrepid dungeon explorer for many years. As for the product, I would personally only buy it if the tin is blessed, coz otherwise they just take too damn long to open, and who can be bothered to carry a tin opener?
posted by kaibutsu at 12:19 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe nobody's gotten to the core of the real issue: is applemeat white meat or red meat?

(No cannibalism threat is implied. All usernames mentioned are property of their respective owners, used without permission. Void where prohibited and in Guam and Idaho.)
posted by kmz at 1:00 AM on June 27, 2010


So, TedW, is unicorn white meat then?

I would imagine not.
posted by TedW at 3:19 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely now we have a NEW white meat, the whole phrase "other white meat" is rendered a false dichotomy and the pork board now guilty of false advertising by indicating there are only two available alternatives to choose from?
posted by zog at 5:14 AM on June 27, 2010


it's a parody for some simple reasons:

1. Unicorns
2. The meat shown is not white
3. Unicorns
4. It's "the new" white mean because of
5. UNICORNS
6. it's on THINKGEEK a site known for its LOLtastic products
7. U!N!I!C!O!R!N!S!


It's not that we don't get why it's FUNNY, it's that we don't get why it's parody. It doesn't seem to be imitating the style of anything in particular. Or poking fun at anything in particular. It's just seems to be "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we sold unicorn meat?"
posted by 23skidoo at 7:17 AM on June 27, 2010


It's not that we don't get why it's FUNNY, it's that we don't get why it's parody.

Good, bad, or nonexistant parody, it doesn't matter. This isn't trademark dillution because the product doesn't exist. Anyone attempting to buy it will be quickly put straight. The NPB's members are not losing market share, and hurried morons are not mistakenly gorging on unicorns.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:02 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The stupid here is that the Dead Pig People didn't think to copy Linden Labs' approach to the First Life website and defend their trademark by granting a license to use the trademark for purposes of satire. Thereby asserting their claim while managing to look cool and avoid pissing people off.
posted by cstross at 9:03 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jippers!

(Sobs)
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:06 AM on June 27, 2010


The advertising executive who came up with the tagline 'The Other White Meat' was once my boss.

He also claimed to have come up with the idea for Spuds McKenzie. If true, lightning does indeed seem capable of striking twice.
posted by Haruspex at 9:45 AM on June 27, 2010


Unicorn meat: Your potential, our passion.
posted by Danf at 10:26 AM on June 27, 2010


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