Tag Archives: Intellectual property

How The Cookies Crumble

This Foodie Friday we’re doing something a little different and putting on our intellectual property hats. I know – how is that food-related? Well, I came across a lawsuit last week that involves both things: food and IP.

English: Milano mint chocolate cookies by Pepp...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s you’ve probably seen a number of products on the shelves or in the freezers that look vaguely like other products you’ve seen in supermarkets. There are goldfish shaped crackers that are not Goldfish (capital G), cream-filled chocolate cookies that aren’t Oreos, and oval-shaped cookies with a layer of chocolate that are not Milanos. It’s these last items that triggered the lawsuit.

Apparently Pepperidge Farm does not consider imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery. As Reuters reported:

In a complaint filed on Wednesday in the New Haven, Connecticut federal court, Pepperidge Farm said Trader Joe’s is damaging its goodwill and confusing shoppers through its sale of Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies.

We can debate whether or not a consumer would confuse the similar shape and packaging with the original cookie, but I’d like us to think about something.  When you see a store brand or other generic product in a store, are you confused as to whether this is the name brand?  I’d venture most of us aren’t.  Generics generally are competing on price while offering relatively equal (they claim) quality.  The issue, then, is how unique is your product?  There are lots of phones running Android (yes, I’m aware most of them us a forked version, unique to the phone and carrier).  While there have been lawsuits (Apple suing Samsung, for example) about the various features of a phone, no one is confusing an iPhone with a Galaxy.  I know about laws on things such as trade dress (the package, for example), but can you protect a flavor?  A shape?  Generally, when I buy a store brand, I know I’m trading off something for the price savings.

Rather than worrying about consumers buying “fake” Milanos, maybe Pepperidge Farm needs to focus on educating consumers as to why their cookie is just better and worth a few pennies more.  As a society, I think we spend too much time looking for people to sue and not enough time making what we sell better.  Better products usually mean better sales and better market share.  That’s the way those cookies crumble in my book.  Yours?

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Filed under Consulting, food

Keep Your Finger To Yourself

We have something from the trademark world this morning. There is a group within the US Patent Office called the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. They’re the folks who figure out if some piece of intellectual property – a name, a slogan, a design – is protectable by a trademark (I’ll pause here whilst all the lawyers out there rush to correct me).
Recently they refused to approve a bottle design on the basis that it was “scandalous,” which is pretty rare. I think they got it wrong and here’s why. Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks


The latest bit from the respected Pew/Internet study is out.  It’s long (138 pages) but contains some interesting nuggets:

  • The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the Internet for most people in the world in 2020.  I still don’t know why we think of mobile devices as phones that compute.  They’re really little computers that have voice capability, as does your PC if you have a mic and Skype.
  • The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but that will not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.  More on this below.
  • Voice recognition and touch user-interfaces with the Internet will be more prevalent and accepted by 2020.  Umm – maybe even by 2010?  Seen that new iPhone thing, folks?
  • Those working to enforce intellectual property law and copyright protection will remain in a continuing “arms race,” with the “crackers” who will find ways to copy and share content without payment.  I’ve been on the “enforcer” side and it’s a losing battle, believe me.  All the music industry did for 10 years was destroy itself and the fact that they finally have a digital business model of sorts isn’t helping.  We need to think about better models, not imposing old ones.
  • The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who’s connected, and the results will be mixed in terms of social relations.

Sadly, 55% disagreed with the following:

Social tolerance has advanced significantly due in great part to the Internet.
In 2020, people are more tolerant than they are today, thanks to wider exposure to others and their views that has been brought about by the Internet and other information and communication technologies. The greater tolerance shows up in several metrics, including declining levels of violence, lower levels of sectarian strife, and reduced incidence of overt acts of bigotry and hate crimes.

Not a very optimistic point of view and I, for one, think that the next few years here will change “the experts'” thinking on this.   Not only is it good when people have differing points of view but also that they express them.  I’m not so Pollyanna-ish to believe that everyone will meet in the middle one day but I do think people can learn to coexist peacefully even if they don’t agree with their neighbors on everything.

What do you think?  Before you answer, think BACK 10 years to the digital world.  Would you have believed we’d be where we are today?

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Filed under digital media, Uncategorized