Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.
Thursday, February 01, 2007UPDATE: If you've come via a direct link, make sure to read "An Update on the Pigsteria...
UPDATE 2: It's over. Find out how it got resolved in Well Done, Pork.
Some day, when Emmitt is a little older and we look back on his first year of life, we'll fondly remember the lactivist causes that we fought for. The time we staged the Delta Nurse-in here in Columbus, the time we were filmed for the South Korean documentary, the fundraising that we've done for the Mother's Milk Bank, the times we were featured in The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and a variety of other publications.
What we might not remember fondly is the time that the legal counsel for The National Pork Board sent us a threatening letter stating that they were prepared to sue us if we didn't bow to their demands.
Yep, you read that right. The Lactivist is being threatened with a lawsuit.
Why? Because I was selling a shirt that said "the other white milk."
First, a little background if you're new to the site. The Lactivist is a blog about breastfeeding and human milk banking. It's mostly a gathering place for breastfeeding moms to come and share their thoughts and experiences and to keep up to date on the latest issues in the fight for the rights of a child to eat in public. To help fund the site (and to raise money for the non-profit milk banks) I have a CafePress store that sells t-shirts with funny pro-breastfeeding slogans. Things like "Milk on Tap" and "That's my baby's lunch you're staring at."
Thus...the shirt that read "the other white milk."
I received a letter this morning from Jennifer Daniel Collins, an attorney at Faegre & Benson that represents The National Pork Board. It stated, for the most part, that my use of the phrase "the other white milk" violates their trademark on the phrase "the other white meat." As such, they've demanded that I remove the shirt, demanded that the image of the shirt be removed from any site I know of, demanded that I destroy any shirts that exist with the logo and demand that I not at any point in the future use the phrase in a commercially profitable way.
(Want to read ALL the demands? Download the C&D as a PDF file.)
Apparently the National Pork Board is worried that someone might come to my breastfeeding blog, check out the shirts and worry that when I say "white milk" what I really mean is "thick and juicy, straight from the hog PORK." Come on now, be honest...were you confused? Because I sort of thought I was comparing breastmilk (which just happens to be white) with the milk of a variety of other animals (cows? goats?) that happen to produce white milk (not kangaroos though, their milk is pink) and that often gets fed to infants INSTEAD of breast milk.
Wait, it gets better...
As best I can tell, the issue that REALLY has their panties in a wad is expressed in this quote from the cease and desist letter:
"In addition, your use of this slogan also tarnishes the good reputation of the National 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."
Go back and read that again. "apparent attempt to promote the use of breastmilk beyond merely for infant consumption."
Do they think I'm trying to an promote an adult breastfeeding fetish??!
Are you freaking kidding me?
Do you think they actually took two seconds to read the site, or do you think they just glanced and fired off a legal template with a few fill in the blank options?
So let's be clear about what we have here.
We've got a hobby site by a work-at-home mom that aims at helping to educate the public about breastfeeding and human milk banking. A site that has raised nearly $2000 (more than a third of its total profit over the last year) for the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio. A site that has made a measly $8 dollars (count em, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR-FIVE-SIX-SEVEN-EIGHT dollars) off the sale of this shirt that is supposedly doing so much damage to people's desire to eat pork.
It's not like I'm selling a shirt that says "Breastfed babies don't grow up to be porkers" or something that might tarnish pork's good name. (It's also been suggested that I create shirts that read "The alternative white milk…" and "The auxiliary white milk…" would those get me sued too?)
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.
Now let me make one important point. I don't much care about selling the shirt. In fact, CafePress had removed it from the site before I ever even saw the letter from the law firm. It really doesn't matter to me if I ever sell it again. It's certainly not the cleverest slogan I've come up with so it's no big loss. What I'm ticked about is that rather than taking two seconds to send me a nice email to request that I remove it, they came in guns a blazin' with a lawyer crafted nasty gram that actually includes the phrase "We trust that after you have reviewed this matter, you will conclude that the better course is to promptly comply with National Pork Board's demands herein."
I don't have a lot of tolerance for bullies.
I still have a few days to decide what I'm going to do. Anyone know a good pro bono lawyer that's sympathetic to the breastfeeding cause?
How can you help?
Blog my friends…blog away. Share this post with discussion forums, social media sites, bloggers…anyone you can think of that will be as outraged about this as I am. Feel like shooting a few letters off to the marketing and PR departments of the National Pork Board (or your favorite reporters and journalists) to share your opinion of this type of bullying?
To note, I'm going to be keeping a list of all the places that this gets covered at the bottom of the post, so if you blog it or post it somewhere, drop me an email and let me know... (jennifer at thelactivist dot com)
Here are quick button links to some of my favorite social media sites.
Here's some contact information:
You can email the Pork Board directly. Or, you can contact the relevant folks in the marketing and PR departments.
Jeff Hartz - Director of Marketing Communications
(515) 223-2629 JHartz@pork.org
Joy Johnson - Vice President Marketing
(515) 223-2631 email@example.com
Michael Wegner - Vice President Communications
(515) 223-2638 MWegner@pork.org
Teresa Roof - Public Relation Manager
(515) 223-2616 firstname.lastname@example.org
ETA: Stories are already popping up: (rats! Blogger seems to have a post limit and it's just dropped about 30 links off of this page. I'm headed to bed soon, will repost a NEW post tomorrow with links to all the coverage.)
It's been Dugg.
It's on Six Degrees of Bacon
It's on Mothering
It's on The Small Business Ideas forum.
It's on Marketing Pilgrim
It's on Traffick
It's on Breastfeeding 1-2-3
It's on Search Engine Land
It's on Shoemoney
It's on Search Engine Guide
It's on The Feeding Choices Board at BabyCenter
It's on I don't Know
It's on Cameron Olthuis' blog
It's at Apogee Weblog
It's at Work at Home in Progress
It's in SearchRank
It's at Ninety-Seventh Floor
It's at Ask Shane
It's at Babbly
It's at Breastfeeding Mums