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Jack Daniels writes to copyright infringers with friendliness and class

Jul 23, 2012 By Abraham

Lawyers who have to protect their clients’ brands from copyright infringement aren’t known for being particularly polite, let alone winsome. Jack Daniels’ team of attorneys appears to be an exception.

The design for author Patrick Wensink’s latest work, as you can see below, borrows heavily from the iconic look of the Jack Daniels brand….

The whiskey’s team of lawyers couldn’t stand by and let their client’s brand be diluted, of course, but that didn’t mean they had to be hardlined or jerks about it. Here’s the best part of their response to Wensink…

This is how to get people to not only agree to your request (which Wensink and his publisher are doing immediately), but actually like you at the same time. All this goodwill just makes me want to go buy some whiskey!

(via Boing Boing)


  1. bobloblaw says:

    Funny that they don’t want their brand diluted, yet they’re happy to besmirch the good name “whiskey” by applying it to their product.

    1. Angel says:

      Really dude? Really?

      If you suggest that their product isn’t whiskey (by definition) then what is it? It was made by whiskey regulations which makes it seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      If you’ve studied anything about marketing (which clearly you have not); the Jack Daniel’s bottle label is one of the most recognizable labels in the whiskey business. So it seems fair that they would request that the concept of it would not be used on something that they don’t endorse. It was really nice of them to request this rather than jumping straight to a lawsuit!

      Besides, “Whiskey,” is not a trademarked name. It’s a type of alcoholic beverage.

      Feel free to post back once you complete bar tending school.

      1. eric says:

        Dude: unclench.

        Here’s a translation of the original comment for the humor-impaired: “Jack Daniels isn’t fit to be called whiskey.”

        Now, you could agree or disagree with that, but there’s actually nothing in there to indicate one way or the other whether bobloblaw has ever “studied anything about marketing” — in fact, that question is completely irrelevant to the comment. That’s just an ad hom you went to all by your lonesome.

    2. Shutupwiththatcrap says:

      Jack Daniels is the most popular (most liked) whiskey in the world. You against the millions… don’t be so pretentious

          1. Mark Jr. says:

            Put JD up against Johnny Walker Black (let alone Blue) and you’ll think better.
            Then there’s tons of Scottish Whiskey’s that blow it away.

            It’s not that good, just popular.

          2. lia says:

            To Mark Jr* Comparing Johnnie Walker (especially Blue) to JD is not fair comparison because they are two different types of whisky (or whiskey).. JW is a blended Scotch and JD is a Tennessee whisky

          3. Richard says:

            Thank you lia, bourbon vs scotch… very very big difference.

            and as for Johnny Walker… There are MUCH better whiskeys than Walker.

          4. Bartman says:

            Comparing brands is ridiculous, as it is all subjective to individual tastes and preferences.
            It’s all opinion.

    3. eric says:

      Syrupy, overly-aromatic — it’s almost liqueur. The only thing that saves it from mockery from me is the existence of Wild Turkey to set a drastically lower bar.

      Though to be fair, bourbon really is a different thing from scotch or irish whiskey. (oops, i forgot that the state of Kentucky owns the word “bourbon” as applied to alcoholic beverages…)

  2. Angel says:

    I knew I liked Jack Daniel’s for some reason! Why can’t we all just sort things out like this instead of just jumping to lawsuits?

    1. Bobsled says:

      The note is part of a cease and desist. Most if not all lawsuits involving trademark infringement start with a cease and desist. It’s just the first step. It’s still a legal situation, regardless of how friendly it’s worded.

      1. Bearfoot says:

        Truth is a “cease and desist” isn’t even necessary, but they do it to save on litigation costs. Much cheaper to send a letter than it is to send a subpoena.

  3. whiskeypeepee says:

    Mad respect for the folks at Brown-Forman for handling the situation with diplomacy and aplomb. Too bad their whiskey sucks.

    “Oh, how dare you desecrate a national icon?” says you, loyal Jack Drinker. Yet I am not a hipster, nor did I ever once in my life drink wine coolers. I too, share your righteous indignation. After all Jack and Coke is what old Blue Eyes drank! The sad truth is that like much of what was once great about America, Jack Daniels too, has fallen into milquetoast mediocrity.

    If you look at the example above, or at the bottle you are drinking from (because you just read this story and said, “good for them! I’m gonna show my support by buying a bottle!) you will notice it says 40% ALC. BY VOL. (80 PROOF). If for some reason you have an old bottle around from before 2005 or so, like if it’s on a high shelf or something, it will say 43% ALC. BY VOL. and if it was before 1986 the bottle will say 45% ALC. BY VOL.

    Besides in my humble opinion, Jack Daniels tastes like an old tire.

    So to sum up, while I’m pleased as punch Brown-Forman is handling legal matters with benevolence and style, it is my opinion that their flagship product has gone from being a national icon to being the stuff of yuppies and sorority whores. Good job, guys! Now fix your whiskey!

    1. Jesse G says:

      LOL, money to spare, I guess? I thought being in the 1% was unfashionable these days.. you can save up the spare tires for barracading your gates; we’ll drink them happily enough. But I wouldn’t recommend bragging about your exquisite liquors once unemployment hits 10% again.

    2. Bearfoot says:

      I’m not a hipster, I’m just an old fart complaining about how it was better back in the day..

      And proof isn’t the only measure of how good a drink is. If that was true Everclear would be gormet…

    3. eric says:

      if it actually tasted like an old tire, that might make it interesting. I just find it tastes a bit like cough syrup. but then, i prefer the younger Jameson to the older because the older stuff is too smooth. (not that I drink much of anything anymore…)

  4. TheKlepto says:

    There’s a band that was originally called Jack Daniels, but after the polite email from the real Jack Daniels, they’ve changer their name to J.D. Overdrive. They too were surprised at the politeness of the whiskey company, so much so that they posted the email and their decision to change on their website (it was a couple of years ago now).

  5. Michael says:

    I think the reason why they were so nice was because the book broke no copyright law. They could just claim they were parodying JDs, which means that there has to be some resemblance. (I should also say I’m not 100% on the laws but this is my basic understanding)

    1. Tiffany says:

      Its depends on whether they trademarked the swirls on the label, which they probably did. Which means the book cover is absolutely infringement.

      1. Mark says:

        Thanks for pointing that out, since nobody else seems to know the difference.

        Just for the record, the lawyers might as well be nice, since they had no leg to stand on. Even if the design of the JD bottle is part of their trademarks, trademarks are always restricted to specific markets. You cannot prevent a book publisher from using the same design as a whiskey bottle. The underlying principle is that of confusion. Nobody could possibly mistake a book for a bottle of whiskey, and nothing about the title of the book, or indeed any of the wording in any way infringes JD’s trademarks, because JD does not own the trademarks to a black book cover with a curlicue design bad white letters. Not for a novel, it doesn’t.

        It’s nice to see that both sides chose to be polite and cooperative, rather than waste money in a pointless lawsuit.

  6. Mudhooks says:

    See, I would be upset if I went into a bookstore and purchased what I thought was a bottle of Jack Daniels and got it all the way home and discovered it was, instead, a book called “Broken Piano for President”….

    Sometimes copyright enforcement is just plain silly.

  7. eric says:

    To clarify this is about _trademark_ infringement, not _copyright_ infringement. The design of the label is copyrighted, to be sure, but the book cover is very likely a Fair Use under US _copyright_ law.

    However, aspects of the design (e.g. the typeface, the design of the flourishes, etc.) are probably registered as visual _trademarks_, which would afford the owner right to pursue legal action.

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