Food & Drink

Pork Board Threatens Legal Action Over 'Canned Unicorn' Parody [UPDATED]


Website proprietors and bloggers are no strangers to cease & desist letters and other legal correspondence, but the website ThinkGeek received an especially peculiar case and desist letter the other day:

[W]hat makes this cease and desist so very, very special is that it's for a fake product we launched for April Fool's day.

It wasn't the iCade, or the Dharma Initiative Clock, or even the Tribbles 'n' Bits Breakfast Cereal.

No, it was the Canned Unicorn Meat.

The very special but also very real letter is from the National Pork Board, who claims we're infringing on the slogan "The Other White Meat," a slogan they're apparently thinking about phasing out anyways.

UPDATE, 6/22, 2:32pm -- The Washington Post weighs in:

The Washington Post has jumped in on the unicorn meat fracas with a story from staff writer Dan Eggen. Scott Kaufman, the head of Geeknet (the parent site of ThinkGeek), sarcastically told the Post, "It was never our intention to cause a national crisis and misguide American citizens regarding the differences between the pig and the unicorn. In fact, ThinkGeek's canned unicorn meat is sparkly, a bit red and not approved by any government entity."

The Post also talked to the National Pork Board, they of the "Other White Meat"-protective letter:

Pork Board spokeswoman Ceci Snyder said the board's attorneys are instructed to protect the "Other White Meat" trademark in all cases to avoid future legal challenges to the slogan. "Clearly there's some fun being had, and we can laugh, too," Snyder said. "But in the end they're just following the law."

The board -- whose members are appointed by the secretary of agriculture -- administers a fee levied on pork imports and production for the good of the industry. The organization often works closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the industry's main lobbying group.

The Post points out that there was a similar incident in 2007, when the Pork Board sent a letter to a breastfeeding website, which sold T-shirts that read: "The Other White Milk." Get it?!

UPDATE, 6/22, 3:23pm -- The AP joins in:

The Associated Press reports on the confrontation and Scott Kauffman of ThinkGeek (and parent company Geeknet Inc.) continues to deadpan quotes appropriate to the situation:

"We certainly offered our apologies. It was not our intention to confuse the public as to the attributes and qualities of the two meats."

And the Pork Board tries to explain:

"We certainly understand that unicorns don't exist," said Ceci Snyder, vice president of marketing for the National Pork Board. "Yes, it's funny. But if you don't respond, you are opening your trademark up to challenges."

The AP also touches on another interesting aspect of the whole episode:

"Where we feel victimized, is I don't know of another organization that does more to promote pork products than our site," Kauffman said, noting the company sells around 20 real items related to bacon, such as bacon gumballs and bacon soap.

ThinkGeek "launches" mock products every April Fool's day. The company said it was surprised the board did not raise any concerns about another prank item this year called "My First Bacon" - a talking stuffed toy that looked like a piece of bacon.

"To be attacked in this manner, given all we do for pork, the irony is not lost on us," he said.

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