Timothy Geigner at Techdirt brings us a story full of drama, humor, and a double-layered Streisand Effect. It seems that an 18-year old student named Jimmy Winkelmann was sued previously by North Face for creating a parody line of clothing named The South Butt. Hilarity, as they say, ensued.
Now North Face is suing Winkelmann again. It seems that they are very unhappy that, after settling in the previous lawsuit, Winkelmann simply re-branded to a new parody mark–The Butt Face. And they’re extremely butthurt (pun intended) that this young man used, and is using, the threat of legal action for publicity purposes. From the filing:
TSB’s carefully orchestrated publicity and use of the lawsuit as a marketing campaign is detailed in Winkelmann, Sr.’s sworn deposition testimony, wherein he described how—even before The North Face filed its lawsuit against TSB—TSB devised a plan to increase sales by “stir[ring] up a lot of publicity.”
So, of course, North Face had no choice whatsoever but to file another legal action that will garner more publicity for Winkelmann.
The second layer of this Striesand-tastic story is where North Face seriously claims that 35% of their potential customers will be confused.
Fourth, survey results indicating that 34.5% of respondents associate THE BUTT FACE Trademark with The North Face show both extremely high recognition of THE NORTH FACE Trademarks as well as a high level of association with THE BUTT FACE Trademark.
Techdirt questions the methodology thusly:
If this is alledging[sic] brand confusion, I’m at a loss as to exactly how North Face went out and managed to collect what has to be the world’s most hurried morons in a single room as a method for getting 35% of them to think Butt Face and North Face were the same thing.
To be fair, I looked in the filing and didn’t find a statement where North Face claims “OVER ONE-THIRD OF OUR CUSTOMERS ARE BRAINLESS PRATS”, but I think it’s implied.
So, I see two foolish moves here. First, I see North Face giving even more publicity to a company that they would probably be better off ignoring. They get bonus asshat points for complaining about it. Second, I suspect their marketing boys don’t really think the idea of coming right out and calling your customers stupid in a legal filing is the best of ideas. Of course, if their customers are that stupid, they’ll probably get away with that bit.
Life imitates art.