In cases of copyright infringement, it may be necessary for a business to send a cease and desist letter. In the vast majority of cases, this correspondence is straight to the point, often contains hints of anger and usually threatens legal action. While this approach can be effective, it’s not always well-received. And as one well-known company demonstrated recently, it’s not the only way to get a favorable response.
The author of a new novel recently received a cease and desist letter from the makers of Jack Daniel’s whiskey. The cover of the novel bears a striking resemblance to the brand’s black and white label, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that he received a letter from the company pointing out the intellectual property issue.
What was a pleasant surprise was the tone of the letter. The letter from the Jack Daniel’s legal team said that while the whiskey makers were certainly flattered by the author’s use of the label design, they also had to be diligent about making sure their trademarks were used appropriately. But rather than insisting the author change the cover immediately, it requested that he simply redesign it when the book is reprinted. The company even offered to pay for the reprinting costs if he decided to change the cover sooner.
The author said he never realized the parody was a copyright infringement, and has agreed to change the cover of his book. But he politely declined the Jack Daniel’s offer to pay for it. Instead, he posted the correspondence on his website, calling it “perhaps the most polite cease and desist letter ever written.” As an unintended consequence, the author has enjoyed an increase in publicity for his book, which he admits hadn’t been selling very well. The book jumped to the top of Amazon’s satirical books chart and became the No. 6 bestseller overall.
The point, of course, is that not all companies are so polite when it comes to cease and desist letters, and even Jack Daniel’s is quick to admit that while it likes to take a friendly approach where possible, the company sees hundreds of infringements of its trademark around the world and is prepared to take more hard-nosed legal action when necessary. But it’s refreshing to see that many times intellectual property disputes can be resolved both quickly and amicably, without angry threats.
Source: The Telegraph, “Jack Daniel’s sends ‘world’s most polite cease and desist letter’,” Mark Hughes, July 25, 2012
- Our firm handles a variety of intellectual property issues. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our New Jersey intellectual property page.