Passing by a roadside billboard recently (below is a miniature version I found in the Minneapolis skyway system), my first thought was, wow, McDonald’s is getting into the juicy lucy business:

Until more focus revealed that State Farm Insurance is the one behind the ad. Look familiar?

No doubt burgers and car insurance are totally different lines of business and seemingly unrelated for any likelihood of confusion analysis, but is State Farm so confident that there is no protectable McDonald’s trade dress here (virtually identical red background color, burger positioned on left portion of ad, and white all lower case letters in copy to the right portion of the ad), and is it so confident that any claimed trade dress is not famous for dilution purposes? Is it even possible that McDonald’s was not contemplated as a possible risk during the preparation of these ads?

A more basic question might be, what on earth is State Farm doing trying to sell car insurance by plastering larger than life size juicy lucy burgers on billboard signs? I’d love to have been a fly on the wall during these brainstorm sessions. I really don’t get it, and I’m doubting Mark Prus will either. Do you suppose the agents who try to sell State Farm health insurance products had any say in these gastrically-stimulated ads? I’ve been loyal to State Farm as customer since I could drive and I didn’t know (until writing this post) that State Farm offers health insurance products.

So, putting aside the notion of a potential trade dress claim, what I’m left wondering is whether McDonald’s thinks State Farm is acting “like a good neighbor” on this one? In other words, would State Farm think McDonald’s is acting like a good neighbor if McDonald’s started offering a “discount double check” burger? Maybe Aaron Rodgers could flip them and help sell them?

What do you think, does McDonald’s have a viable trade dress claim? And, is State Farm acting like a good (trademark) neighbor here?

  • Mark Prus

    I’d be willing to bet that McDonald’s won’t be pursuing a trade dress claim, but rather is secretly hoping that State Farm keeps running these ads because I am pretty sure that any McDonald’s store within a half mile of this billboard is experiencing a double digit sales increase over a year ago! As for the football metaphors, I think the advertising agency for State Farm should just “take a knee” because clearly they have given up!

  • State Farm probably wanted some local flavor (couldn’t resist) in the ad, and the Juicy Lucy is definitely a Twin Cities creation. The ad looks rough enough for it to be a local campaign.

  • timmaguire

    I think the burger in the ad looks disgusting. And just where is the cheese dripping from here?

    But while I too initially thought McDonald’s, the similarities are too vague and superficial to sustain an action. There’s no golden arch, the burger doesn’t look like a McDonald’s burger, just not enough in my opinion. Maybe if State Farm was a burger joint.