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Warby’s Fast Food: Can Arby’s Take a Joke?

Posted in Branding, Infringement, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

Maybe you’ve heard of Warby Parker. The eye wear company has become quite successful in a previously monolithic industry. But a tongue-in-cheek advertising effort for a new onion ring monacle might just cross the line into provoking a trademark feud. See, Exhibit 1, below:

And, for the main course:

Even if Warby’s doesn’t actually sell the products, the packaging incorporates not only the entirety of the Arby’s trademark, but also the iconic, cowboy hat/maybe-its-a-fishhead logo. Has Warby Parker’s rebellious attitude finally crossed a line?

It turns out, no. No it hasn’t. According to AdWeek, Arby’s and Warby Parker specifically teamed up on this project as part of an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke (and, ICYMI, this is not Warby Parker’s first rodeo, either). So the joint use of the marks is authorized by both parties and not an infringement. As the companies explain in their joint press release:

Arby’s has an eye for meat. Warby Parker has meat for eyes. The result? A new partnership sandwiched somewhere between vision and at least eight different kinds of meat.

If you’re lucky enough to live in New York, New York, there will be two real life Warby’s restaurants, beginning this Friday, March 30th. The participating locations are at 121 Greene Street and 32 E. 23rd Street. I don’t know where those addresses are, but for marketing purposes I hope it isn’t Long Island (no offense, Long Island).

So yes, this isn’t an infringement issue. But this is still a trademark story. At some point attorneys on both sides of the equation received an email because “This sounds awesome, but I think we have to run it by legal first.” Thankfully, the attorneys didn’t get in the way of this project to prevent it from actually happening.

My only complaint is that the companies announced it as an April Fool’s Day joke. You have to at least try to trick people into falling for it. Come on.