Forgive me for amplifying the reach of something that Yahoo! says has gone viral. But I think it makes a larger point.
Patrick Wensink writes a book called Broken Piano for President. The cover looks -- deliberately, I am sure -- somewhat like the lettering on a Jack Daniel's bottle. A lawyer for the sour mash company sends the predictable cease and desist letter. The letter's kind of cute. The author blogs about it and the lawyer gets kudos. And the author and his publisher, Lazy Fascist Press, give in and agree to change the cover.
While everyone's smiling and Wensink's basking in free publicity, I'm wondering this: where's the purported trademark infringement? The lawyer suggests that, if Jack Daniel's allows this cover, "we run the very real risk that our trademark will be weakened."
How, exactly? How many people will buy the book simply because they think it's a bottle of whiskey? (message to Amazon: maybe you should start selling booze!) And if they buy the book because they get the message (Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 is not a small-batch concoction--rather, it's a mass market drink and 'a shot of Jack' is known the world over), doesn't that just prove enduring popularity of the brand? Mightn't the book cover actually benefit Jack Daniel's, demonstrating that the brand is a cultural icon (hey: it's the first whiskey I ever got sick on!). Isn't this an example of copyright and trademarking overreach--where things that are clearly 'fair use' become problems because corporations have deep pockets and the rest of us don't?
I'm not against Jack Daniel's going after another whiskey distiller who names a new product 'Whack Daniel's' or 'Jack Spaniel's' or even 'Hack Sandles.' But a book?