ThinkGeek --those playfully evil geniuses behind the marketing of such brilliant>"/>
ThinkGeek--those playfully evil geniuses behind the marketing of such brilliant products as Vibe compressed powder energy gum (which speeds 40mg of caffeine straight into your bloodstream), the the Einstein bobblehead, plush zombie dolls with removable limbs and ant farms that use breathable NASA space gel--always have the best toys. Just before moving to Seattle, I wrote a piece about doing my foodie Christmas shopping completely out of their holiday catalog (mostly because I was hoping someone would buy me the Empire Strikes Back-inspired tauntaun sleeping bag), but have really been a fan for years. I've got the plush zombie. I have the night vision goggles. I've got various stuffed viruses and geeky tee shirts and little noise-making annoy-mo-trons that I occasionally hide in the offices of my co-workers. But for April Fool's Day this year, ThinkGeek really swung for the fences by offering tins of (allegedly fake) unicorn meat for sale.
This was the sales pitch:
"Unicorns, as we all know, frolic all over the world, pooping rainbows and marshmallows wherever they go. What you don't know is that when unicorns reach the end of their lifespan, they are drawn to County Meath, Ireland. The Sisters at Radiant Farms have dedicated their lives to nursing these elegant creatures through their final days. Taking a cue from the Kobe beef industry, they massage each unicorn's coat with Guinness daily and fatten them on a diet comprised entirely of candy corn."
The giggles are the most delicious part
Sounds delicious, right? Unfortunately, the original ad copy included the descriptive phrase "Unicorn--the new white meat," and this apparently stuck in the craw of the folks from the National Pork Board because they sent a strongly-worded cease-and-desist letter to the ThinkGeek crew accusing them of trademark violation because the National Pork Board already holds four trademarks (two in the U.S., one in Canada and one in the E.U.) for the phrase "The Other White Meat."
For details on all the legal wrangling and comments from both sides you can check out Caleb Hannan's excellent report over on the Daily Weekly blog, but I just have two questions here.
One, it appears to me as though the phrase "the new white meat" is different than the trademarked phrase "The Other White Meat." I get that the NPB is trying to defend their brand, slogan and intellectual property against the depredations of geeks and unicorn-lovers everywhere, but if the phrasing is different, I don't see how what ThinkGeek did constitutes a violation. Oh, and also? It's an ad for fake unicorn meat.
Two, even if ThinkGeek were to have used the phrase exactly, I think that selling a can of unicorn meat filled with sparkles (made of ground-up unicorn horn, natch) falls pretty squarely in the realm of parody. That's what the crack ThinkGeek legal team believes as well, as detailed in this blog post about the cease-and-desist (which also includes a scan of the first page of the 12-page document sent to them by the NPB's lawyers).
Some people just have no sense of humor at all.
Or maybe the folks from the National Pork Board just really hate unicorns.