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California Milk Processor Board Goes After Breastfeeding Advocate

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, July 31, 2008

Seriously...did the world learn nothing from my run in with the National Pork Board?

A few minutes ago, my brother in law pings me with a link to a story that brought back memories.

'Got milk' lawyers huff at Talkeetna artist's parody

A snippet:

Talkeetna batik artist Barbara Holmes heard from the group behind the "got milk?" brand this month.

Holmes made the mistake of advertising T-shirts and "onesies" -- those snappable one-piece underclothes for babies -- hand-lettered with the words "got breastmilk?"

She whipped up 10 of the little things from her downtown Talkeetna home with an outhouse and no running water. She sold six at a holiday fair in the senior center two years ago, then moved on to other projects.

The letter from the board's Sacramento law firm showed up a few weeks ago.

My favorite part of the story?

The phrases 'got breastmilk' and 'got milk?' are similar except for the addition of the word 'breast,'" the lawyers wrote. "This difference is not enough to eliminate the likelihood that consumers will be confused about the origin of the products."

Oh man.

Oh man, oh man, oh man.

"confused about the origin of the products?"


I love the mother's response...

"They say I'm going to confuse milk consumers," she said. "How can you get confused between a boob and a bottle of milk from the store? They're two different kind of jugs."

Sound familiar? (If not, go back and read the story of my battle with the National Pork Board a few years ago.)

Looks like it might be time to get to work again ladies.

I've already emailed the news reporter with my information and asked him to pass it along to Barbara.

In the meantime, let's get moving on our own.

Go ahead and get in touch with the California Milk Processor Board.

Jeff Manning is the Executive Director. The board's phone number is (949)481-6620. Their fax number is (949)481-6680.

A recent caller asked about Mr Manning and was told he is no longer executive director. I've been trying to dig up the milk board's officers, but they've been harder to find than the Pork board's was. If anyone gets the new ED's name, please let me know and I'll update. As I'm posting between conference calls today.

As with the last time, here's my request. Spread the word. Pass it on. Let's let the California Milk Processor Board know that we're all fully aware of the difference between jugs containing breast milk and jugs containing cow's milk.


  1. Blogger Maria | 8:44 AM |  

    I blogged on the topic and will go back and email Manning later tonight. Ridiculous.

  2. Anonymous phdinparenting | 9:32 AM |  

    Passing the word and adding my thoughts...


  3. Anonymous David Lawlor | 9:45 AM |  

    Email for Mr. Manning is bouncing already... Unknown user error for manning@gotmilk.com

  4. Blogger Milk Donor Mama | 10:01 AM |  

    I emailed him and cc'd you! Feel free to post my letter here!

  5. Blogger Kathie | 10:07 AM |  

    I'm confused--are the original "got milk?" commercials and shirts produced by the california milk processor board? Because if so, then I'm pretty certain that the "products" they were concerned might fall prey to confusion were the t-shirts vs. onesies, not the milk vs. breastmilk.

    It sounds like they are just being picky about licensing--which is very silly since it's not like the poor woman will have made tons of money off the onesies--but since she could, in theory, they are asserting their rights.

    So are you sure they were talking about milk vs. breastmilk, regarding confusion? I don't think so.

  6. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 10:32 AM |  


    You make a good point.

    That said, it's my understanding that trademarks protect the product they were designed to promote. For instance "BAM!" or whatever Emeril uses is trademarked to protect his name and image as much as it is any products that are marketed using it.

    In the case of my pork board battle, it was pretty clear from them that they meant my products created confusion around pork. Thus, based on my understanding of how trademark cases work, I made the assumption the same was true here.

    I'll be interested to see where this goes and if further statements are made by the California Milk Processor Board.

  7. Blogger Jennifer | 10:41 AM |  

    I just called and was told that Manning no longer works there.So that is why the e-mail is bouncing.

    I politely explained to the woman that as a consumer, I was capable of differentiating between a carton of milk and a breast. I also let her know I thought it was unnecessary to pursue any action against the woman in question.

    The woman was polite back to me, thanked me for my call, and took my name and e-mail address.

  8. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 11:03 AM |  

    Thanks Jennifer.

    I didn't think to check to see if he was still there when I called. I appreciate the update. I've amended the post.

  9. Blogger Jennifer | 11:06 AM |  

    When I called, he is who I asked to speak with. I figured I'd go straight to the top! :)

  10. Blogger For Your Peanut | 12:44 PM |  

    You have to be kidding. I will post shortly.

  11. Blogger Amy @ Experience Imagination | 1:34 PM |  

    Apparently they've changed their tune in the last two years. According to this notice, back in August 2005, they compiled an official list of "Got Milk? imitators illustrated in a new campaign from the California Milk Processor Board that embraces got milk rip-offs. "

  12. Anonymous Angela | 5:27 PM |  

    Here's my take on it:


  13. Blogger B. Holmes | 9:38 PM |  

    Thanx to all the mammas and sisters for the support! I'm the artist/mom in this mess, it's all pretty ridiculous. Just shows even in the back woods of Alaska you can't avoid corporate Californian lawyers, it's a shame! Ironically it's National Breastfeeding Awareness Week...GO MOMS!!! and I heard from CNN Headline News today, they wanted a comment. I don't have TV but if anyone catches it I would love to know what they say. Now my friends all want me to make shirts that say "Got Jugs?" -B.
    *this was my first time blogging I had to say THANX...

  14. Blogger Danielle | 5:23 AM |  

    I kind of thought it was common sense not to use another person's slogan/design/work. I'm going into business myself with a design I have for an aio cloth diaper, and I am really working hard to make sure I don't commit any infringements. To knowingly do it is simply careless, IMO.

  15. Anonymous phdinparenting | 6:38 AM |  

    B.Holmes - I'm glad you dropped in. Nice to hear from the person at the centre of it all. Hope things work out for you! We'll be watching and listening...

  16. Blogger B. Holmes | 7:59 AM |  

    Danielle do you really believe that the CMPB should have rights to the word "got" with anything after it? or are you "confused" like they are about the difference between Milk and Breastmilk? Just wondering! And yes I did some research, I knew I wasn't the clever creator of this PARODY. You can go online and find it in a zillion places, just about every cafe press sight will make them along with tons of other breastfeeding advocate mom's trying to spread the word with fun slogans, so should we all be sued for a parody that is protected under our FREE SPEECH laws?! Or doesn't it make more sense that the CMPB only owns "Got Milk?' not everything under the sun that sounds like it?! Good luck with your diaper design, hope nobody comes along later claiming it was theirs first! Do all the research you want, it can still happen to you, to all of us!!! By the way Good Morning it's 7am here in Alaska...

  17. Blogger Danielle | 11:43 AM |  

    You knowingly did this. It's different from someone coming along and saying something was theirs when the original designer had no idea. It's completely different. You took something well known and made an *obvious* parody. It's not just the word "Got" that's the issue here. You blatantly copied an idea. And by trying to make it into something against breastmilk itself, or breastfeeding is really unwise. It just makes you look like someone who overall doesn't get it.

  18. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 12:57 PM |  

    Actually Danielle, it's called parody and it's protected under the 1st Amendment.

    It's what Saturday Night Live, Conan O'Brian, David Letterman and other comedy shows make their living from.

    It's what Waffle house is doing when their staff wears "Got Waffles?" shirts.

    It's why the California Milk Board actually embraced these spin-offs a few years back and even talked about their favorite ones.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with parody.

  19. Blogger KaritaG | 1:13 PM |  

    "You took something well known and made an *obvious* parody."

    Um, doesn't the fact that you acknowledge this point make you look like you overall don't get it? You're obviously projecting your concerns about your DESIGN being copied into this situation, when the two aren't related.

    Someone copying your DESIGN would indeed be bad, because the copies could theoretically be used for the same purposes as your product, meaning someone was intentionally taking a portion of "your" profits.

    Breast milk cannot (okay, generally IS not) used for the same purposes as cow's milk. This is not a situation in which B intentionally copied a product that people can use for the same purposes as cow's milk, and is therefore cutting into profits that would otherwise be going to the milk board.

    Which is why this lawsuit is ridiculous. As an attorney, I would be interested to see if this even makes it to the briefing stage.

  20. Blogger Danielle | 1:32 PM |  

    The difference is that they probably *wrote to ask permission* to use it. I simply can't believe anyone would do something like this without asking the original people first.

  21. Blogger Danielle | 1:47 PM |  

    No, I get it.

    At least I get that before you do something someone else started, you should *ask*.

  22. Blogger KaritaG | 2:15 PM |  

    I disagree. Legally, things that are part of the "public domain" are open to parody.

    Of course, there is a difference between parody and "copying." You should obviously ask permission to copy something.

    But parody is basically a free-for-all. You legally don't have to ask permission to parody people/things, because obviously 90% of the time they would say no. I am thinking especially of comedians here.

  23. Blogger JudyBright | 8:06 PM |  

    Got Bitterness?

  24. Blogger Heather | 1:17 PM |  

    The courts have made it pretty clear that you don't have to ask permission to parody something. Satire is satire, and you don't need permission to use something in a satirical manner.

  25. Blogger deb | 5:40 PM |  

    As of Fall 2007, the Executive Director of the CMPB was Steve James.

  26. Anonymous phdinparenting | 6:31 PM |  

    "The courts have made it pretty clear that you don't have to ask permission to parody something. Satire is satire, and you don't need permission to use something in a satirical manner."


    Because it isn't like people are going to give others permission to make fun of them (like on Saturday Night Live).

  27. OpenID betweenbabies | 12:00 PM |  

    Getting back to the original topic... I agree that this sounds eerily like the "other white meat" problem.
    I agree with the early comment that the product in question is probably the shirts/paraphernalia, rather than whether people would know the difference between cow's milk and breastmilk.
    That said, why would they think that people would even believe it was from the same campaign as the "got milk?" slogan?
    And we know that Ms. Holmes didn't create the "got breastmilk" slogan, it's clearly a parody, and it is used all the time by breastfeeding advocates! This just seems to be another case where the big bad lawyers are trying to stifle the little guy (or gal) because they think they can. Frivolous lawsuits. Don't we have better things to waste our money on?
    My big question is how they found out about this one small incident, and are they going to go around picking on everyone who uses this parody slogan?

  28. Blogger mama2reese | 9:42 AM |  

    Very interesting - and down right odd!

    I have a picture of my Lo with a pink "Got milk?" shirt on asleep from her Boob milk . . . maybe I should mail it to them juts to piss them off.

    I will be reading up on your blog - glad I found it!

    btw, are you on diaper swappers?

  29. Blogger Lynette {Radio} | 6:09 AM |  

    "Holmes said in a telephone interview this week. Her creations were clearly a parody of the real thing."

    No, sorry. "Got Milk?" is a parody of the REAL THING. ;)

  30. Anonymous b. holmes | 9:19 PM |  

    It's me agian, the artist in trouble here. I just wanted to let you know my lawyer finally heard back and I'm off the hook. They say they are going to leave me alone because the phtos are off my website (which I did before even receiving the letter). But they have instructed me not to make anymore and I don't have the time or money to fight them so I guess I'm just happy they are also willing to drop it. Thanx again for the "mama support", they got some bad press out of it and that's about it!

  31. Blogger Valerie W. McClain, IBCLC | 6:05 AM |  

    I would suggest to you all that the California Milk Processor Board is a front group. Jeff Manning is considered a marketing leader for a variety of ad campaigns for other products (like beef, etc). He is a PR man--public relations man. see
    An interesting book to read about the public relations industry is called, "Toxic Sludege Is Good For You!" by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton. Jeff Manning worked for Ketchum--one of the top ten public relation firms in USA. Valerie W. McClain, IBCLC "humanmilkpatentpending"

  32. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:09 AM |  

    Jennifer. I enjoy reading your posts, but have just read the following blog who states your opinion is bought by industry. Can you please comment. It would be concerning if this were the case.



  33. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 4:10 PM |  


    Thanks for the heads up! Just to be clear (because I like to keep things accurate) she didn't say I WAS being paid off, she asked if I was. There's a slight difference.

    I responded...my comment is awaiting moderation, so I'll post it for you here:


    While I appreciate your concern and share it on many fronts, I must say I do not appreciate the not-so-subtle accusation that "someone" is paying me off to write The Lactivist.

    Quite frankly, it's insulting.

    That said, I'll share your concerns that transparency is a HUGE issue right now in the world of blogs and online promotions. It's one of the biggest battles I fight when teaching companies how to work in the social media landscape. They want to get their message across, but they don't want to do things the old fashioned way...earning their coverage through good stories and interesting offerings to the community.

    Unfortunately, companies are reluctant to openly wade into these waters for reasons perfectly demonstrated in this blog post.

    While you ask some compelling questions, your blog also calls my integrity into question, doing potential damage to my reputation with no proof and no cause for suspicion other than "oh, she's in PR."

    That's sad. I've personally always felt one of the key things missing from the lactivist movement was good understanding of public relations and marketing. It's the entire reason I donated so many of my hours to the launch of the Ohio Breastfeeding Coalition and to behind the scenes work with dozens of moms who needed help figuring out how to handle now-public breastfeeding issues.

    What is the motivation for a company to operate with openness and transparency when someone with no facts to back them up can introduce questions and accusations like you have?

    And I'll take a guess that you haven't read much of my blog. If you had, you'd realize how amusing the idea is that I might be "backed" by Prolacta. ;)"

  34. Blogger solerso | 1:10 PM |  

    I Stumbled on this site after running some searches about "california milk". I am on the east coast and it seems preosterous to me that i should buy"fresh" milk from 3000miles away. I think what the calfornia milk marketing people are doing is not only rediculous, but ONE MORE EXAMPLE of big agra, exploiting political and corporate resources, to make life worse for the rest of us. Just consider the cost of the energy required for refrigerating and trucking milk and dairy products all over north america. For such an enterprise to be able to compete with local farms (out "compete" even) would require some huge resovoir of "free" capital. in other words TAKE THE MASSIVE SUBSIDIES YOUR GETTING FROM WASHINGTON AND USE IT TO SUPPORT AN OPERATION THAT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THEM. Im NOT against governments using public resources to help real people, but this is "corporate welfare" at its most destructive worst. this is not "free market" capitalism. Its not even good socialist policy. It is American Kleptocracy in action

  35. Anonymous Annalise | 1:11 PM |  

    Great blog!! I have a natural mothering blog too, would like to expand my links to similar blogs. Mind if I put you on? Also you might be interested to share the site www.yogaofnursing.com with your readers. Thanks!

  36. Anonymous My Baby Pajamas | 2:19 PM |  

    Breasts and Utters. I can how a lawyer might get confused.

  37. Blogger Steve sculpts critters | 7:11 PM |  

    I stumbled onto this from the 30 day CafePress store thing. So I'm having a bash at taking bits of your advice in that department.
    My bronze critters will take over the world!!!!!
    Oh, I was breastfed by the way, and thankfully I have no recollection of it whatsoever.

  38. Blogger Tim and Kelly | 5:32 AM |  

    What happened to your Bento Yum site? I loved it and I hope it comes back or you can send me a new link.


  39. Blogger Annie | 3:34 PM |  

    Well, here we go again...revv up the engines!

  40. Anonymous breastfeeding your man | 8:29 AM |  

    Great point Kathie!

  41. Anonymous Testosterone Therapy | 3:26 AM |  

    Great article! t sounds like they are just being picky about licensing--which is very silly since it's not like the poor woman will have made tons of money off the onesies--but since she could, in theory, they are asserting their rights.

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