Likable lawyering

Protecting one’s intellectual property and trademark is no laughing matter, but evidently it doesn’t mean you have to get nasty about it. Thanks to Mashable, I recently found a case that was downright neighborly. Author Patrick Wensink recently published a book with a cover  closely resembling the familiar Jack Daniel’s label. Did the company go ballistic and threaten to sue and demand Wensink change the cover and pay damages? Well, No. They asked the author to change his cover on any future editions and offered to help pick up the tab for doing so:

We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we can appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s, we also have to be diligent to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly. Given the brand’s popularity, it will probably come as no surprise that we come across designs like this on a regular basis. What may not be so apparent, however, is that if we allow uses like this one, we run the very real risk that our trademark will be weakened. As a fan of the brand, I’m sure that is not something you intended or would want to see happen.

As an author, you can certainly understand our position and the need to contact you. You may even have run into similar problems with your own intellectual property.

In order to resolve this matter, because you are both a Lousville “neighbor” and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is re-printed. If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including on the digital version), we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount towards the costs of doing so. By taking this step, you will help us to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s brand will mean as much to future generations as it does today. 

Anyone familiar with trademark/IP law knows that a company must actively defend their trademark or risk legally losing control of it. But as Jack Daniel’s shows, you don’t need to be a jerk about it. Wensink will probably even more more copies of his book as a result.

What’s interesting is the discussion in the comments on Wensink’s blog. It’s funny how many people think they’re lawyers when things like this come out. It seems quite obvious to me that the book cover was a knock-off of the Jack Daniel’s label. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but I probably could have told you that even without seeing the JD label for comparison. But in this case, it seems like JD’s approach will be a win-win for everyone.

Rare, but nice to see.