No, not a Jack Daniel’s, cease-and-desist for Jack Daniel’s.
Cease-and-desist letters are a potent way for big, powerful entities to enforce their legal rights, especially when it comes to trademarks and copyrights. They can scare the daylights out of the unsuspecting (or suspecting) victim with their harshly worded letter, backed up by an expensive lawsuit. Surprisingly, Jack Daniel’s has taken a different route when it comes to its latest reason for issuing a cease-and-desist letter.
What’s Going On?
Over at boingboing, Cory Doctorow,
has helped bring to the attention of the internet a “very nice and friendly cease-and-desist letter from Christy Susman, a Jack Daniel’s company’s trademark lawyer.” This letter was written to an author named Patrick Wensink concerning the cover of his new book, Broken Piano For President.
Yes, that’s right, a very nice and friendly cease-and-desist letter. Who knew that was possible? Anyway, Christina Warren at Mashable has a great write-up of the situation with a side-by-side comparison of Jack Daniel’s label as well as the book cover. She writes, “The typeface isn’t exactly the same, but the border and presentation is a dead-ringer for the classic black label of that sweet, sweet Tennessee whiskey.” True, there’s no doubt a significant amount of “inspiration” for the book cover came from the Jack Daniel’s label.
Kill ’em With Kindness
So the letter itself is available here. Basically, Christy Susman has taken a very cordial approach to dealing with this very serious legal and brand protection issue. Jack Daniel’s does not threaten Wensink at all. With nothing but kind paragraph after kind paragraph, Jack Daniel’s eventually offers to pay the expenses for the publisher to change the cover for subsequent sales and prints as a reward for acting quickly! Yes, they want to pay him to fix the problem and aren’t threatening anything directly!
Yet despite this kind gesture, Patrick Wensink has refused to do anything about it. To me, this seems like a no-brainer. Take Jack Daniel’s offer so you can avoid a serious (and expensive) legal battle that you cannot win. That way, both sides win.
I suppose he’s hoping the press and viral-ness of this news story will boost his sales enough that any costs involved with a legal fight or changing the book cover are irrelevant. If something like this happened to me, I’d gladly agree to go along with it. Even though it is a cease-and-desist letter of sorts. Kindness and creativity like we see in the letter shouldn’t be met with refusal, especially when the norm is to use fear and threats.
What We Should Learn from This
If you’re a business owner, you know the importance of maintaining your brand. Copycats are out there – no doubt about that. Jack Daniel’s is just exercising its legal rights to protect their brand. But what’s fascinating is that they do so without being seen as the villain. They turned the whole process on its head.
This shows a very real understanding of today’s connected world by Jack Daniel’s. It also shows a great ability to effectively solve problems outside of the normal methods. By sending a letter like this, not only have they taken necessary legal steps to protect their brand, they’ve also taken steps to protect and boost their reputation. Things like this spread like wildfire on the net, especially on social media. People often make quick judgments on companies’ actions without both sides of the story or all of the info. Jack Daniel’s recognized this and tailored their message accordingly.
I think it’s one of the most well-thought bits of legal PR (if that’s a real thing) I have ever seen. Plus, it’s about time people started thinking outside of the box to solve problems in ways that benefit everyone.
Do you use creative and effective ways to grow and manage your brand?
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