Friday, July 27, 2012

Do you associate the word NICE with Jack Daniels? Well, maybe it’s time.

Image from
I came across this letter through the blogosphere grapevine (see a list of posts below), but this letter represents many things: (1) the oft-taught “bad-news” letter in business & technical writing service course; (2) an example of a letter written in plain language and lacking the generally present legalese; and three, as AbovetheLaw points out, (3) it’s just darned nice: "you get more flies with Tennessee whiskey than you do with adversarial attorneys."

Trademarks attorney Christy Susman requests that author Patrick Wensink who wrote Broken Piano for President (Lazy Fascist Press, 2012), to change the cover art because it appears to look very similar to the Jack Daniels logo, which is, of course, protected by trademark.

Susman writes:
We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand, but while we can appreciate the pop culture appeal of Jack Daniel’s, we also have to be diligent to ensure that the Jack Daniel’s trademarks are used correctly. Given the brand’s popularity, it will probably come as no surprise that we come across designs like this on a regular basis. What may not be so apparent, however, is that if we allow uses like this one, we run the very real risk that our trademark will be weakened. As a fan of the brand, I’m sure that is not something you intended or would want to see happen. ...

In order to resolve this matter, because you are both a Louisville “neighbor” and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is re-printed. If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including on the digital version), we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount towards the costs of doing so.
Image of letter from
The tone of the letter would make me want to comply, which is exactly what the publisher is planning to do. Upon reprinting the book, new cover art will be designed, according to AbovetheLaw.

As faculty in an English Department, I also find this situation interesting because the social media attention surrounding this letter helped Wensink’s book move to the top of several of Amazon’s lists. So, in the end, everyone wins: JD protects its brand and Wensink’s book gets attention. Wensink's press credits Jack Daniel's for much of the book's success, stating, "This is the highest sales rank a bizarro book has ever achieved. Let’s all raise a glass of Jack Daniel’s and give Patrick Wensink (and the great people at JD) one hell of a toast."

The Grapevine:

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