Jack Daniel's deals with trademark infringement just like any large company and when they do, the first step is generally a cease-and-desist letter. It's just that practice that has people talking about the company in a positive way.
Independent book publisher Lazy Fascist Press and author Patrick Wensink published a book that uses a design similar to that on the Jack Daniel's label on its cover. The company noticed the similarity and sent Wensink a letter asking him to change the cover design the next time the book was printed.
Not only did Jack Daniel's succeed in protecting its trademark, they also earned the goodwill of people around the country who saw the letter.
They even managed to do it without giving up any of their rights as trademark owners.
The letter doesn't tiptoe around the issue. It clearly states that what Wensink is doing is an infringement. But instead of assuming that his actions were malicious, it takes a gentler approach which may be a good model.
Wensink and his publisher have already agreed to change the cover which is printed on-demand. While Jack Daniel's offered to pay some of the costs to reprint it quickly, that wasn't necessary so they're not out of pocket for any expenses.
That cleans up the problem without creating any negative image for the company. The fact that the letter was publicized actually provided a net benefit.
Jack Daniel's is able to do this because they handle each potential infringement individually, according to David Gooder, managing director of the chief trademark counsel. They can consider the intent and bad faith in each case of infringement before acting.
It's important to the legal department that the way they treat their customers isn't out of sync with they treat others, says Gooder.
Jack Daniel's polite cease and desist letter did everything the letter is intended to do, but it also created a lot of good will for the company. In-house lawyers aren't known for doing public relations but this proves that it's possible to be all business while still being alright.
- Honey Badger Does Care About a Cease and Desist Notice (FindLaw's U.S. Fifth Circuit)
- Michele Bachmann Can't Use 'American Girl:' Tom Petty Threatens Suit (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- Newt Gingrich Sued Over Song Choice (The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog)