Home > Uncategorized > Parody? Me thinks not.

Parody? Me thinks not.

Just how far can a competitor go in parodying a competitor’s trademark to promote its own goods or services?  Courts have been fairly liberal in allowing use of names or slogans which, although not exact copies of registered marks, clearly trade on the goodwill or familiarity of that mark.  Take for example the case THE NORTH FACE v. THE SOUTH BUTT where both businesses market winter clothing and sports apparel.  It is not difficult to see why this is a concern for The North Face Apparel Company but any legitimate trademark owner has a hill to climb in enjoining such use.  Remember that the standard for infringement generally is whether a mark is “likely to confuse” the consumer or whether consumers may believe an association exists between the original trademark owner and a wayward competitor.    It seems self evident that a mark invoking comedic parallels or other distinctions from the registered mark is most likely not sponsored by the original mark owner.  In the North Face case, South Butt founder eighteen year old Jimmy Winkelmann has readily admitted that the fleece jackets and other clothing sold by his company are intended to mock people who wear brand-name clothing sold by outfitters like The North Face.  The fact that the case has now settled, and that South Butt continues to promote products on its website, suggests that the power of parody has won out again.  See North Face v. South Butt

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