Brent Carlson-Lee, President, Open Door Foods

If you’re anything like me, you occasionally muse about being a celebrity.

If I were a movie star, I’d gladly sign autographs – even while at a restaurant with my family.

If I were the author of the hottest business book on the New York Times Best Sellers list, I’d graciously offer advice to an aspiring student – even while running late for my appearance on The Today Show.

If I were a prolific inventor, I would consider someone infringing on my patent the purest form of flattery.

Right?! Probably not.

Which is why I was taken aback by the particularly kind letter Charles Schulz sent to a potential infringer.

While this letter represents a manifestation of Minnesota Nice circa 1960, it warmed my heart to see that such behavior is alive and well – albeit rare – in 2012.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of Jack Daniels’ label and the cover of Broken Piano for President, which are obviously quite similar.

Did Jack Daniels fulfill its expected role of trademark bully? Nope. See an excerpt of its cease and desist letter below.

This is how you’d respond. Right?!


  • Kyle Kaiser

    Maybe they’re being their own brand of “Louisville nice,” but there’s a bit more to it.
    Sure, side-by-side you see the resemblance, but what’s really the same? White-on-black, some swirly borders and an oval insert. The title of the book is in a different font, there’s a hamburger in the middle, and while the type styles of Patrick and Tennessee and Wensink and Whiskey are similar, they’re far from the same. No “Old No.7” no “Old-time” no all caps. And a big hamburger int he middle!
    The only thing that really gets you is the “40% Alc. by Vol.” at the bottom. Without a side-by-side, my guess is that many citizens of the target group wouldn’t recognize the mark. But since apparently the book (or its author) comes from Tennessee, and you’ve got the “Alc. by Vol.” you probably have some intent evidence going back the other way.

    The whole point is, this isn’t an open-and-shut case. By being nice, and presumably getting Wensick to follow through, they’ve provided evidence down the road that they’ve laid claim to a black label with a layout similar to the JD label on a product very different from alcohol.

    Of course a mark holder has a right to expand its influence, and they’re doing it without even threatening litigation (which is smart, since that generally stops preemptive declaratory judgment actions for non-infringement or to cancel the mark). But there are certainly ulterior motives to this course of action.

    But you do catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Especially in Tennessee.

  • Looks like it worked for Jack Daniel’s and the author Patrick Wensink.