Before the age of social media democratized communication tools, companies didn’t have to worry so much about back-channel communications going public, but these days all it takes to make a big corporation look silly is a lack of foresight.
Intellectual property and copyright law is something that Lathrop & Gage Partners David Barnard and David Waters know a lot about, so when we heard they were presenting a talk about the Top 10 Legal Pitfalls for Content Generators, we wanted to do a little research of our own to help support them.
To find some online trends and determine some social media context around an IP letter gone wrong, we monitored the terms surrounding the now-infamous Starbucks vs. Exit 6 ’F” word dust-up that happened right before the new year. Here’s a summary of the incident from abovethelaw.com:
"Jeff Britton, the owner of Exit 6 Pub and Brewery in Cotteville, Missouri, received a cease and desist letter from none other than Starbucks, specifically from Anessa Owen Kramer of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, over a beer named “Frappicino.” As the world knows, the lords of coffee sell a frozen drink (a coffee Slurpee?) by the name of “Frappuccino.” Yes, the names are similar, but to be confused enough to think you could order the nectar of mall-hopping teenage girls at a bar, you’d have to be pretty drunk.
Rather than cower in fear over the legal consequences threatened by America’s coffee monarch, Britton decided it would be in his best interests to write a response on his own, without the assistance of legal counsel, because he didn’t need no stinkin’ lawyer."
Using the Spiral16 advanced online monitoring platform, here’s what we found:
Not surprisingly, by the time Starbucks got around to defending the letter four days later, it was too late. The David and Goliath image had been set in stone, and of course, their response (“We appreciate that Exit 6 Pub and Brewery respected our request.”) wasn’t shared nearly as many times as Britton’s.
It also wasn’t very funny.