–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney
Early on in the days of the blog, I wrote a post about Method cleaning products and my fascination with the fact that cleaning products could have not only fans, but vocal, proud fans. To me, Method has always taken a “hey, we’re all in this together” approach to marketing, as evidenced by its slogan “People Against Dirty” (for which Method owns a generous handful of trademark registrations).
Method’s newest addition to its promotional campaign bears this same philosophy – with a twist. Method received a cease-and-desist letter from Clorox, makers of the Green Works line of ecologically friendlier cleaning products, about Clorox’s ownership of a yellow flower design for use in connection with cleaning products, and Method’s alleged infringement of the same in connection with its advertising, shown here:
Nothing unusual yet, right? Companies receive cease-and-desist letters all of the time over similar types of uses. What is unusual, however, is Method’s “response.” According to the New York Times, Method’s www.votedaisy.com website went live on Tuesday. On the site, Method not only posts the “friendly note” it received from Clorox, and not only claims to have used its daisy for at least six years, it also created a poll asking consumers to vote on who can claim “ownership” of the daisy – Clorox, Mother Nature, or Method.
Putting any discussion of the strength of Method’s trademark claims aside, the “Vote Daisy” website not only captures Method’s wholesome, little guy spirit, but also goes to the heart of trademark law – what do consumers think? Trademark laws exist to protect consumers. Moreover, trademark infringement occurs only if there is a likelihood of confusion. By going to consumers (albeit a self-selecting group largely made up of New York Times readers, folks already visiting the Method website, and the like) and making the discussion about “ownership” rather than confusion, Method is educating its public as it sees fit.