Unilever is suing to protect its Ben & Jerry's trademark.
The unlikely targets of the lawsuit are Rodax Distributors and Caballero Video. If you don't know who they are, that's probably a good thing as the two companies are adult film producers responsible for such gems as "Boston Cream Thigh!" and "New York Fat & Chunky!"
As you probably guessed, Unilver is suing these companies for allegedly using Ben & Jerry's trademarks in a series of porn movies, reports ABC.
As a multi-national conglomerate, Unilever is responsible for a lot of well known trademarks including Dove soup, Lipton ice tea, and Wish-Bone salad dressing to name a few. With a slew of rivals, copycats, and satirists, the company probably has to deal with hundreds of trademark cases every year.
If the Apple Samsung case is any measuring stick, the costs of litigating intellectual property cases can be extremely expensive (even accounting for the obvious differences between a patent and trademark infringement actions). So Unilever likely has to pick and choose which cases to go after.
Generally, most companies will enforce their trademark in cases where another's use of a trademark will likely lead to confusion. For example, if a rival adopts a similar name or packaging that has the potential to mislead consumers, you may want to sue to enforce your mark.
However, there may be other cases where you will also want to enforce your trademark such as when another's use has the potential to seriously damage your trademark. This is the situation that Unilever faces with the porn companies' alleged use of the Ben & Jerry's trademarks.
No one is likely to confuse the "Boston Cream Thigh!" porn video with the Boston Cream Pie ice cream flavor. But as Unilever's target consumer is likely children and families, the use of similar sounding names has the potential to hurt Unilever's business.
Despite the questionable use of the Ben & Jerry trademark in the porn videos, it's no certainty that Unilever will win its case. That's because an intellectual property attorney can tell the porn companies that there may be a parody/satire defense to the trademark use as no one is likely to be fooled that the porn movies came from Unilever.