The Pork Board Saga

The following is a compilation of some of the emails sent back and forth during my war with the National Pork Board over my Cafepress T-Shirt “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat” and their objection to my conflation of cannibalism and pork. Sadly, Cafepress has no sense of humor or desire to get between potential litigants, so they pulled the design even though the Pork Board (kind of) backed down (partially).

Jennifer Collins,

Recently, your office requested from Cafepress.com the cessation of my use of the slogan “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat” on t-shirts and bumperstickers provided by my site Crankmonkeys. While I appreciate your employer’s need to protect their trademarks, unfortunately this claim does not meet the requirements of Title 15, Chapter 22, Subchapter I, § 1051 of the Federal statue governing the use of trademarks:

1. The term “The Other White Meat” is a humorous, satirical expression, and as such falls under the protection of parody and similar such works by the First Amendment. See: L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Publishers, Inc., 811 F.2d 26, 28 (1st Cir. 1987) and Hormel Foods Corp. v. Jim Henson Prods., 73 F.3d 497 (2d Cir. 1996).

2. The term “The Other White Meat” as a humorous, satirical expression relating to human meat significantly pre-dates the Pork Board’s adoption of the slogan in question. Specifically, the Pork industry’s usage of the slogan in question dates to only as recently as 1987, whereas the use of the expression relating to human meat significantly predates 1987. The trademark, thus, is arguably not even valid in the first place, and certainly not when applied to anything other than pork.

3. The term “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat” might be protected if the Pork Board’s primary business was selling humorous t-shirts and bumperstickers. As its primary business is promoting the over consumption of massive amounts of greasy bacon dripping with cholesterol inducing heart attacks, there is no legal conflict.

4. The term “The Other White Meat” as used by the Pork Board is a trademark, and as such only applies to the use of said trademark as applied to the specific area of commerce engaged in by the Pork Board. Unless the Pork Board has expanded its promotion of food from pork into the area of the consumption of human flesh, there is no commercial conflict, and thus no possible claim of trademark privilege.

Given the clarity of the legal statutes that in this case completely undermine your assertion, a lack of any adequate response on your part should constitute an acknowledgement of the idiocy of your claim, permitting Cafepress.com to reenable the use of my own intellectual property – Vegetarians: The Other White Meat.

Thank you very much,
Geoff Tuffli
Operator of Crankmonkeys on http://www.cafepress.com/crankmonkeys

Dear Mr. Tuffli,

Thank you for your message. Without debating the merits of whether there is likelihood of confusion in this case (we believe there is), due to the National Pork Board’s extensive promotion and advertisement of a family of marks built around THE OTHER WHITE MEAT®, National Pork Board’s trademark THE OTHER WHITE MEAT® is a famous trademark. Thus, your use of the slogan “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat” blurs the distinctiveness of and tarnishes the mark THE OTHER WHITE MEAT®. Therefore, we maintain our position that your use of the slogan “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat” constitutes an unlawful dilution of our clients rights and supports our client’s demand that you cease use of the subject slogan.

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Collins

Ms. Collins,

Likelihood of confusion, while entertaining to debate, is in any regard the secondary issue. The primary issue is that even if a court were to agree that there was a chance of confusion (which I still maintain does not meet legal standards), there is the issue of satire.

The courts have consistently and repeatedly upheld that satire trumps trademark claims. Is your position that “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat” does not constitute satire? If so, please state your legal reasoning, or drop this issue.

Thank you,
Geoff Tuffli

Dear —-

As you are aware, this law firm represents the National Pork Board in connection with its intellectual property rights.

Given our prior correspondance and that you have advised us that you have made minimal, if any, use of the slogan “Vegetarians: The Other White Meat”, we have decided not to take further action at this time. Please be advised that should circumstances change, the National Pork Board reserves all its rights, including the right to pursue various claims against you.

Any further correspondance in connection with this matter should be addressed to me.

Sincerely yours,

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