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The Pillsbury Doughboy vs. Engineers 190

Anonymous Coward writes: "Just when you thought things could not get more stpid. Salon is reporting in this story that Pillsbury is sending cease-and-desist letters this week to universities and Sun Microsystems among others ordering engineers to stop holding what the doughboy company considers illegal "bake-offs." A bake-off is slang for testing software against protocols. This article tells the story. Xray crystallographers who use the "shake and bake" software better watch out. They're probably next."
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The Pillsbury Doughboy vs. Engineers

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  • Actually, I think Pillsbury would have a better case if they included the name "Pillsbury." However, if the contest were called the "cookie company fuck off," they'd be okay.

    This reminds me of Carl Sagan suing (and wining) against someone (I'm sure someone else will remember who--I think it was Apple) called their release "Sagan." So, they changed the name "Butthead Astronomer." Carl Sagan sued again, but lost.

  • The point is, however, when you invite lawyers into a situation like this, a lawsuit could easily follow.

    If I take my car to a mechanic, the mechanic's likely to add on additional work for himself. A lawyer's involvement is unlikely to stop at a simple letter, because he or she operates under the same principle the mechanic would use.

    You might say that the company can control it's lawyers, stopping at the letter. But, in this day and age, how much of a company's behavior is actually controlled by the lawyers?

  • is that no one reads posts after 2 days..
  • by griffjon ( 14945 ) <GriffJon.gmail@com> on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:41PM (#493407) Homepage Journal
    can a company be so mindbogglingly stupid? I cannot conceive of a non-comedic board meeting with the legal team to decide to pursue 'bake-off' as a trademark under infringement. Expecially right now. I would've expected it in mid-99 when they could've used their legal team to sap some dollars out of the tech boom [1], but trying it now is squeezing water from a stone.

    Of course, this is from a company that asks you to sign up for their spam with a damn popup on their front page, so. Surf their brands [pilsbury.com] to see what you should boycott. Lay off the haagen-dazs, green giant, old el paso, and of course, pilsbury.

    [1] Of course, it would've been stupid then for the same reasons it is now, but I could at least see a good corp-think argument for it.
  • Pillbury's lawyers won't fear a boycott. Everyone knows that geeks don't bake. :-) But recently I sent a nastygram to Hormel Foods about a pound of "premium" bacon that turned out to be 80% fat when I opened their deceptive packaging. They offered me a refund if I'd "only" send my address, receipt, the bacon's UPC code and batch code. I told 'em all I'd kept was my address. Two weeks later I had a check for $3.29. It probably cost 'em $20 to process that check. Wonder how long it would take for Pillsbury to catch on? ;-)
  • Do you think Kimberly-Clark would go after a company marketing tissue under the slang term "Kimby-wipes?" They'd probably have a good case because it would be a term that name that would cause confusion in various circles.

  • by Calle Ballz ( 238584 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @08:59PM (#493410) Homepage
    excerpt from www.pillsbury.com [pillsbury.com], link to site is here [pillsbury.com]

    [begin contact info]
    Contact Us
    Before you contact us, we'd like you to review our policies on privacy [pillsbury.com] and suggestion and idea submissions. [pillsbury.com]

    8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central Time
    Monday through Friday

    Click here to contact Pillsbury [pillsbury.com] about product and technical questions. Kids, get your parent's permission first!

    The Pillsbury Company
    2866 Pillsbury Center
    Minneapolis, MN 55402 USA

    [end contact info]

    if they have a problem with that.... good =)

  • Hello! This file is hosted by Tripod, a Lycos® Network site, providing the best personal and commercial publishing tools available on the Net. For premier homepages and lively community interaction, visit Tripod often.

    I don't get the joke. Tripod has something to do with the doughboy?

  • Honestly, I never heard of a pillsbury bake-off. Bake-off is def everyday language, and I feel that they should reliquish their rights to the phrase
  • Or is there some movement in lawyers' organizations to protect people's rights, something like a jurisprudential EFF?

    The ACLU, I suppose?

    I don't think this approach is going to help, though. Let's start the rant: :^)

    There are too many lawyers! The US has the majority of the world's lawyers - there is not enough work for them. Therefore they will create their own work - needlessly consuming everybody's time, energy and resources. Nobody can afford that many unproductive lawyers for long.

    The big law schools need to reduce their output of lawyers to approach the numbers a society actually needs - the numbers they produce now undermine the workings of society and destroy civil liberties.

  • by Fishstick ( 150821 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @04:05PM (#493414) Journal
    Undoubtedly, this [google.com] is the reason for thier actions.

    Someone at Pillsbury was probably shocked and dismayed when doing a search on "bake-off" and getting all these hits that have nothing to do with proper use of the Pillsbury trademark.

    Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. *shakes head in dismay*

    Also, there is this intersting IETF mail archive entry [] about this very issue from last November. It quotes text from RFC1025 [kblabs.com](Sept 1987) --

    There were a few times when this testing was focused, bringing together all known implementations and running through a set of tests in hopes of demonstrating the N squared connectivity and correct implementation of the various tricky cases. These events were called "Bake Offs".

    So the term has obviously been in use for quite a long time. I'll bet what is driving this now is all these TCP testing-related websites getting higher page ranks than Pillsbury's official bake-off contest stite. [bakeoff.com] It is causing consumer confusion! Too fscking bad!

  • I took that course on viscous flow.
  • #include <ianal.h>

    Now, correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't the use of a trademarked image okay when used in an obvious satire (I remember seeing it back in the day). If so, then the good folks at rotten should probably be talking with their lawyers about this, because they may have a case here. Or, more likely, someone has bought congress/the president yet again to make sure that there is no dissident voices anywhere.

  • Personally, I think lawyers who participate in that sort of intimidation should be disciplined by the Bar or the courts. It's not much better than robbing a bank w/ a toy gun.

    Your analogy is especially appropriate, and my first thought on reading it was: Lawyers are nothing BUT robbers, these days, using the law as their sidearms. That the law is used not as a method of protecting people but rather a means to attack others to gain their assets is a sign that we're headed for the shitter. :(

    Fighting the War on the War on Drugs.
  • The article mentions that Coke can be a soft drink and a mineral. Coke can also be an illicit drug. Perhaps we should be sending trademark lawyers after all the drug dealers. Perhaps an over zealous trademark lawyer will finally put all those pushers in their place. Or maybe those crackhead dealers will finally rid us of the lawyers. Perhaps some caps need to be busted off before corporate america will learn to live and let live.
  • IANAL.. But I read books by Nolo press (Writen by legal experts to explain the law.. think "Law for Idiots")
    This is well outside the function of trademarking. It is to protect product and company identity a "mark"..

    I am aware however that nothing in IP law requires the protection be used as intended....

    However this is flying in the face of the way language works.. English is the "worst" offender of language mutation...
    But language mutates as needed... Need a term for testing protocals.. Why not "Bake off"? And how about "Beta testing".. Are we testing a Betamax? Often "Beta testing" is the PRIMARY test.. ("It's only a beta" should be answered with "What the hell happend to the alpha?")

    Thankfully insect sprays haven't patented "killing bugs" or we'd be sued for fixing software defects... (Yeah yeah even Microsoft would get sued.. don't go there.. I hate them but stay on topic even if I can't)

    So who do we sue next?
    BTW the artical botched it... Klenex, Xerox and other trademarks have nearly gone into public domain but they did save the day..
    The artical avoids a real comparison.. "Spam" where "Spam" refers to marketting bombardment in e-mail and usenet... the term was in use for years before Hormel sued Cyberpromo for using the term..
  • and even your examples would not stand up in court. There are many trademarked terms that are in common use. Try "Good Thing [uspto.gov]", owned by Martha Stewart. Look up other "everyday" phrases at U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [uspto.gov]. You'd be surprised.
  • A brief search on google [google.com] revealed the following (admittedly old) link about spam and email [directmag.com]. I'm curious whether the reasoning would apply to the present case.

    I'm surprised they said that. Here's [spam.com] what Hormel has to say now about SPAM and UCE.

    In summary, they don't mind people using the word, "spam" when talking about UCE, but not "SPAM" (distinguishing all-caps as their product name). They also (fairly, I think) don't like their product associated with UCE (for example, slashdot's use of a can of SPAM for the UCE [slashdot.org] topic).

  • I'm sure you're wrong about the case having no merit-- Pillsbury invented the term, they've held a trademark on it since 1971 (according to their website), and they've defended their trademark successfully in the past.

    As I understand it, they could lose a suit like this if it could be shown that "bake-off" has become a generic term for "competition", or smething like that. And if they were claiming rights to the "-off" suffix, that would definitely be overreaching. But as it is, I don't see where this is a slam-dunk for the geeks.

    And as for a "public relations fiasco," who's more sympathetic-- the doughboy, or Scott McNealy?
  • go get some therapy...after they run about 50 grams of that stuff through your veins over a two year period or so...ahhhhh. things will be much mo betta.

  • but I oh so love those Pillsbury Pizza Pops...

  • Enquiring minds want to know why you even bother ripping on me.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • I asked, does Pillsbury enter your mind at all when you hear bake off? They all answered no.

    Indeed, I asked my wife. She thought for a moment and answered "Betty Crocker" and was quite sure of it.

    It is obvious that Pillsbury has not done enough already to keep their "trade mark" from disassociation and dilution, and they want to start now?

    Too little too late.
    Closing the barn door behind the horse.

    Are a couple of things that come to mind.
  • Next thing you know, the Shit Corporation will insist that we stop saying, "Oh, shit!" That usage tends to sully and dilute the quality of authentic Shit, whose market value is only as good as its name. Even if you are merely refering to shit and not to Shit(tm), the mere casual invocation of a trademark is itself troublesome: the Shit Corporation would like it to be understood that talking Shit is hardly a casual endeavor for its 1,253 employees worldwide. Shit, you might say, signs their paychecks. And so it has been since the early 1880s when Silus Shit founded the company on no more than an intestinal rumble and a dream. The proud Shit tradition -- summed up in the company slogan, "Shit and Business, Hand-in-Hand, Forever" -- demands no less. Think twice before dropping Shit in conversation unless you really mean it.
  • If you visit their website http://www.mealtimeideas.com/ you will be presented with a spam dialog box, where you are supposed to put your own e-mail address etc. And of course, you can put someone else's e-mail address.

    I leve the rest to your fantasy.

    (BTW, I couldnt' believe a company could be so moronic, even in USA where tehy, *sigsh*, can!)

  • I'd say we should encourage Fox Entertainment, Inc. or Matt Groening to sue Pillsbury back for calling their mascot "D'Oh"-boy.
  • It would seem rotten.com does not have the financial resources to pursue such a legal battle, as their response to almost every cease and desist order they have received is to remove the offending content. And they have received many... [rotten.com]
  • BTW: is sending a threating C&D letter the same a 'suing'?

    No, a C&D is the first step at resolution. It only threatens to sue if the alleged abuse continues.

    The purpose of a C&D is two-fold. Obviously, it's much cheaper than a lawsuit and usually effective. In addition, if you need to take the abuser to court at a later time, the company can submit the C&D as proof that has made efforts to protect its trademark. It also proves that the abuser knew about the violation and continued to abuse it anyway (for punitive damage).

  • Don't f*ck with Pillsbury. They're known for sending 150 ft. demonically possessed doughboys at anyone who opposes them.
  • trademark, not patent, and you'll probably have to search again for bake off, because that one expires
    Get involved
  • About that comment that "nobody brings a cassirole," it seems like somebody would bring a plate of cookies or natchos or something. After all, you've got a whole bunch of guys testing code for hours on end. This leads me to doubt that nobody ever brought a cassirole, or any other sort of food item.
  • I mean, I've never liked "cookies technology" much, the thing Netscape introduced that allows websites to track users. With a bit of luck, Pillsbury has trademarked the word "cookie" too, and henceforth the invasive little bastards will be illegal!


  • well i thing running around poking people is probably illegal for other reasons
  • by amirboy2 ( 264999 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:15PM (#493438)
    am i in legal danger?
  • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @04:34PM (#493439)
    "Kleenex" is very much a registered and protected trademark, despite the yabberings of the uninformed.
    An article [harvard.edu] in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology states (references in the quote removed):
    It is important to keep in mind that trademarks are inherently adjectival and must remain distinctive to retain their protected status. While many formerly distinctive marks have made a transition into common, generic nouns ("Kleenex" for "tissue") or even verbs (e.g., "to (make a) Xerox"), this metamorphosis, when complete, sacrifices the trademark to the public domain.
    The thing to remember is that it will take a court case to determine whether that metamorphosis from trademark to generic term is complete. AFAIK for Kleenex that case has not happened, and Kimberly-Clark are still vigorously defending the trademark. A list of trademarks that have become generic can be found here [mycounsel.com]. Kleenex is not on it.
  • Bring cookies to bake offs. Not pillsbury, of course...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:48PM (#493443)
    Sun can call it the "pillsbury fuck off" instead.
  • So should we contact Pillsbury about this or do we even have a right to? Are we even qualified since we are all not lawyers and we do not have the "all" the facts?

    I ask this because some upbraded my posting of Nintendo contact info in an earlier discussion this past week. Some did not like the idea of an executive get slash-dotted by all the people writing and sending email.

    One comment made to me was:

    And my other point which you failed to address: If anyone here is qualified to be sending their comments to Nintendo, they don't need you to help them get the address. You don't know enough about this case to be telling Nintendo that they are wrong. I don't know enough about this case to be telling them that they are right (though that is my opinion, based on what I have heard).
    And My response was:
    This walks in the interesting direction of saying that the consumers of a companies' product are inherently unqualified to communicate to the company about a product or a situation involving that product.

    Now I'll grant you that *that* is likely *not* what you intended to say. But you can see how it can be taken that way, no?

    And this does raise an interesting point of when do the consumers of a product have any right to communicate with the company that puts them out.

    I'll grant you that it is less useful when it bears a marked resemblance to the jabbering of rabid monkeys.

    But I *do* think that the consumer has an inherent right to communicate with the company that produces the product that they buy. Now it is up to each of us to cultivate the intelligence of the consumer.

    The data, by itself, is not evil. The correct target is the cultivation of intelligence.

    There was this reply:
    My right to wave my hand around wildly ends at your face.

    Your right to post contact info for Nintendo executives ends at Slashdot.
    My position is stated clearly above. Although I could be wrong, I do believe that we all have the right to contact people in corporations based on what we do know and what we do believe. We should not be intimidated by the PR spin of some. Our freedom is based in large part on the ability to freely communicate.
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:49PM (#493445)
    "Kleenex" is very much a registered and protected trademark, despite the yabberings of the uninformed.

    To test this, I propose the author attempt to bring to market a line of facial tissues called "Kleenex", and see exactly how long it takes for him to hear from the Kimberly-Clark corporation. Indeed, even if he were marketing Kleenex-brand Bowling Balls, I suspect he'd hear from K-C. This is such a stupid myth that would never be propagated but for poor fact-checking.


  • If Pillsbury does not protect "bake-off" from entering into general English usage like "xerox", "escalator", "popscicle", and "kleenex", then Pillsbury loses some ability to enforce their trademark against a direct competitor. I'm mostly on Pillsbury's side on this one. I suppose if Pillsbury wanted to be really nice, they could license the term to one or two specific organizations for $1, but even that's risky for them, and they are probably not afraid of a boycott from Slashdot readers.
  • My brother, who IS a lawyer, told me that the reason why whenever you go to a restaurant where they serve Pepsi and you ask for a Coke they ask you "Is Pepsi okay?" is because of the Coke Lawyers.

    They actually send associates around when they're on travels to various restaurants and check the responses. Those who don't clarify are asked (politely, according to my brother) to correctly phrase the question, and the store goes in the big bad offenders database.

    It's their way of preserving the fact that a Coke is their particular beverage. They (the brand owners) really DO take this stuff seriously.

  • I just sent the following to the pillsbury comment site and the mealtimeideas site:

    Begin submission ---

    Ok guys, this has gone far enough. I fully understand your legal right and responsibility to protect your trademark on "Bake-off", but this has to stop. I am a network administrator for a state agency and have been involved in the computer industry for almost 10 years. Until reading the article posted on slashdot.org today, I had never heard of the term Bake-off used for engineering testing and competition. This just does not have the same impact as the 'Kleenex' and 'Aspirin' issues.

    Had I not seen the article, I would have gone blithely along completely unaware that Bake-off (not a word I use in daily conversation) was anything other than a contest by the Pillsbury folk. I sincerely doubt there could be any consumer confusion about the difference between a Pillsbury baking contest and an informal event to test computer hardware and/or software.

    I have become more and more concerned in recent times about the problem of creeping corparatism and patent and intellectual property issues. There is a big difference between someone attempting to market a product by co-opting the Bake-off trademark and some engineers getting together to test equipment. Since I heard about the patent of an obvious computer process in the Amazon 'one-click' patent issue, I elected to stop patronizing Amazon.com and let anyone I come in contact with know the reason I had done so. I don't know if I have had any impact on their business, but it really doesn't matter to me, it's an integrity issue.

    If I don't hear in the near future that Pillsbury has retracted it's objection to what some small group of engineers have chosen to call their informal testing process, I will have to stop purchasing Pillsbury and related products and let anyone I come in contact with know the reason why. Again, I don't know if it will impact the Pillsbury bottom line, and I don't really care, it's all about integrity.

    I'm sure you know that the best advertising is word-of-mouth. But it can also be the worst form of advertising. I make very informed and objective purchasing decisions. Often guided by what others have told me about their experiences and what they have heard about a vendor, company, etc. (after verifying what might be hearsay.) I hope others make these types of decisions as well.

    This is only intended to be a statement of my displeasure at what I see as a wholly unreasonable use of corporate power. Please reconsider you actions and leave these poor engineers alone.

    Thank you for your time. I'll be keeping my eye on the media to see if should continue to patronize the Pillsbury corporation.

    End Submission ---

    I will watch to see if they continue this ridiculous course of action. If so, I will follow through. I don't know if my individual decsion will make any difference to them, but a lot of individuals before a significant force with significant impact.

  • I was unable to see the picture, but fromthe description this should be it [attaway.org]. Mirror early, mirror often.
  • I didn't know that the term 'bake-off' was owned by Pilsbury. Anyway... it all reminds me of a guy who I talked to a while ago who owned zennet, who would create net pages solely for the purpose of making the blood-thirsty lawyer-monkies chase after him with tons of cease and desist letters, whereafter he would delete the page after responding to them three or four times. He would get some great letterheads and stationary and the like, and had a pretty good collection going, but then, out of no where, in the middle of a legal correspondence with Manny, Mike, and Lo (aka, the Pep Boys) he just vanished off the face of the planet. Server and all. Hmm.
  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @02:00PM (#493465) Homepage Journal
    This has been posted to the Pilsbury http://www.mealtimeideas.com/bulletinboard/ [mealtimeideas.com]

    For those of you who don't know, Pilsbury is sending cease and desist orders to a variety of organizations who use the term "bake-off."

    The most recent round of such letters went to computer companies who use the term for a state of software testing. Salon has an article about it online. http://www.salon.com/tech/log/2001/01/19/pillsbury /index.html [salon.com]

    Your local school could be next!

    Anyway, my computer geek background and my considerable cooking skills inspired me to come up with the following recipe for Dough-Boy cakes.

    First, you start with a basic pound cake or Mazitpan recipe. If using a pound cake recipe, you need to add flour to create a very dense dough.

    Roll the dough into circles for the head, an oval for the chest and smaller ovals for the legs and arms. If you're feeling creative you can even make the hat and add some food coloring.

    The more sadistic among us can shape the head with skeleton features to indicate a cooked Dough-Boy who met a gruesome end, as in the picture here: http://members.tripod.com/laffs/images/Doughboy.jp g [tripod.com]

    Serve and enjoy.

    http://www.matthewmiller.net [matthewmiller.net]
  • .."Jack Offs" instead

    [/me ducks]
  • I checked the trademark. It refers to cooking and contests.

    A trademark only covers specific areas. You can have a trademark in one area, but not have it conflict with an identical trademark in another area.

    Look at Apple Records and Apple Computers.

  • I don't know, but wouldn't this affect the cooking industry even more? I mean, I've seen potluck dinners and get togethers where the partipicants refer to the event as a "bake-off" all the time.

    They may as well patent the word "bake" while they're at it.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • So Pillsbury needs to show that "bake-off" is in danger of becoming a generic term for "competition," and they have an interest in preventing that.

    Let's be real here, ask 1 million non-geeks what they envision when they hear that Sun is holding a bake off, and most will probably picture some sort of employee morale event involving cakes and cookies. I seriously doubt that they will picture an event where clients and servers get mixed and matched to test interoperability.

    Also, do a Google search on bake off. I found that use of the term seems divided about 70-30 in favor of the tech usage by MANY entities with no particularly outstanding entity. On the cooking side (30% roughly) about half referred to Pillbury, the other half to various other entities including McDonalds!

    Coca-Cola is a good example of a famous mark. It is widely recognized by most of the world (often phonetically in non-english speaking countries).

    Of course, it's possable to get nearly anything into court these days if you have a large legal staff that gets paid wheather they are busy or not. That is not a good thing. Perhaps we need a grand jury like process for civil court to decide if a suit has enough merit to be worth bothering the defendant with.

  • You'd also have to boycott Haggen Dazs, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Totino's, Progresso, Jeno's and Martha White.

    Cool! I'm already boycotting them and didn't even know it.

    In all seriousness though, I would like to given them a chance to respond before a boycott. (As if little 'ole me boycotting them will make much difference to them)

    I say if they don't apologize by Tuesday we start the political activism. I've had it with all these #)&$@ corporations deciding their bottom line is more important than right and wrong. I don't want to live under Corporate Feudalism anymore.

    http://www.matthewmiller.net [matthewmiller.net]
  • They should have known better than to trademark such a word.
  • Though interestingly, Pillsbury claims that the first use of the trademarked "Bake-Off" term was Mar 31st, 1995. IANAL, but could one argue that the term was already a commonly used/well known phrase in the English language.

    It's in my 1976 Webster's 3rd International Dictionary, which identifies it as a "service mark".
  • One somehow imagines if all I posted was troll posts, that I'd have negative karma (or at least "regular" karma). Fact is, I've posted a number of posts -- against big business or for big business -- which people find cool to read. If you don't believe me, look at my user info.

    I don't know why I'm even defending myself. It's only Slashdot, and I'm only some college kid. I'm not rich. I'm middle class but I'm comfortable. My mom has five kids, and my dad died when I was 13 of cancer. That's my self-righteous life story.

    I occasionally try to produce interesting discussions playing the devil's advocate, but at the same time I usually go for Linux or against Microsoft.

    I don't like zealots. They're frightening, for any cause. I also don't like flamboyant people, but that's another story.

    It's Slashdot, it's enjoyable, and try not to take too many people's opinions as law. It's discussion.

    -Be a man. Insult me without using an AC.

  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Sunday January 21, 2001 @08:04AM (#493480) Homepage Journal
    Here's what Hormel has to say [spam.com] about SPAM® luncheon meat vs. "spam":
    We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.
    Rob, please lose the "can of SPAM luncheon meat" icon [slashdot.org] for topic spam.
    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • Pillsbury's trademarks [pillsbury.com] include The Doughboy® and likeness, Häagen-Dazs®, Old El Paso®, Green Giant®, Sprout®, and Bake-Off®. Now you know what brands to avoid.
    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • I participated in a Girl Scout Bake-Off (go ahead, make your lame jokes about "Are they made with real Girl Scouts?") many, many years ago. Not prior to 1949, I'll grant, but still.

    Heck, Sun can call me in as a witness. I can probably still come up with my non-winning cake recipe...

  • Actually, trademarks only apply to other uses in the same trade. So they will first have to show that the geek bake-off is in fact trade (believable), and that the trade is in food service (never in a million years).

    Actually, they don't. Check this, from nolo.com:

    In addition, under federal and state laws known as "anti-dilution statutes," a trademark owner may go to court to prevent its mark from being used by someone else if the mark is famous and the later use would dilute the mark's strength -- that is, weaken its reputation for quality (called tarnishment) or render it common through overuse in different contexts.

    Anti-dilution statutes can apply even if there is no way customers would be likely to confuse the source of the goods or services designated by the later mark with the famous mark's owner. For instance, consumers would not think that Microsoft Bakery is associated with Microsoft, the software company, but Microsoft bakery could still be forced to choose another name under federal and state anti-dilution laws.

    There is no good definition of what makes a mark famous. This means that to avoid dilution claims, it is necessary to stay away from all existing marks that have widespread and significant consumer recognition.

    So Pillsbury needs to show that "bake-off" is in danger of becoming a generic term for "competition," and they have an interest in preventing that. All of which seems credible enough to get you into court.

    [Can I have my karma now?]

  • You are right, but you are also wrong. Although "Kleenex" is a registered trademark, and you can't sell a product called "Kleenex", everyone still says "Kleenex" when the mean "facial tissue" or whatnot. A bake-off isn't a profit thing, it's just a word for a bunch of engineers getting together and test their latest creations. If you were at a friend's house, and you asked "Where are the kleenex?", and he points to a box of generic brand facial tissues, can Kleenes sue you? I sure hope not...
  • Is it just me, or are there a lot of these kind of lawsuits going around now? I know there always were, but it appears there have been an escalation lately. Namely, big companies suing web-sites and indiviuals to stop using trademarked names, such as Nintendo suing sites using the Pokemon name.

    Has there been a new law that has forced companies to more aggresively pursue copyrights and trademarks? Did all the lawyers make a resolution to cause more agony in the new year? Or is this just business as usual, and we're just noticing it more now?

    I understand a bit about trademarks, that you have to get out a stick and enforce it every once in awhile or you lose it, but this seems a little ridiculous.

    Or, perhaps, there is a new product in the works - maybe a Pokemon / Dough Boy crossover? Watch the show, buy the trading cards, eat the cereal, bake the character-shaped cookies?

    If I'm absolutly correct about that last one, sorry Slashdot. You can remove this comment if the lawyers knock on your door

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @02:55PM (#493493) Homepage Journal

    So should we contact Pillsbury about this or do we even have a right to? Are we even qualified since we are all not lawyers and we do not have the "all" the facts? I ask this because some upbraded my posting of Nintendo contact info in an earlier discussion this past week. Some did not like the idea of an executive get slash-dotted by all the people writing and sending email.

    Many of us (including me) are not lawyers. That precludes our practice of law. We are still members of the society that Pillsbury operates within, and thus are entitled to moral and ethical opinions. We have every right to voice our opinions, and to call upon fellow citizens for action (such as boycotts and letter/email writing). Pillsbury may listen or not as it chooses. It can ignore the threat of a boycott or take it seriously as they choose.

    I believe that posting corperate contact info and using it is the right thing to do. That right stops at posting home phone numbers and making harassing calls at 3A.M.

  • This is such a stupid myth that would never be propagated but for poor fact-checking.

    Perhaps Asprin would have been a better example.

  • Seen on the inside of the packaging for cookie dough (in fine print):

    "seineew era sreenigne nuS"


    They should rename the "bake-offs" to BHDs (Butt-Head Doughboys).
  • SIP has very little to do, specifically, with wireless.

    It has to do transmitting content (voice, mostly) over networks. Parts of the network may be wireless, but that's not the focus.

    I do remember using a 3Com SIP phone, having to plug it in and let it grab an address before I could use it.

    The only wireless part was the IR port for connecting to a Palm. You can dial out with it or register your identity with the phone so that calls to you would be routed to that phone.

    It's pretty cool, actually.

    For a Linux implementation, check out Dissipate [div8.net] for KDE.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    [posted anonymously to preserve identity]

    I worked as an Intern for General Mills this past summer in their IS department. Being an intern at a place gets you lots of interesting information. I knew General Mills would be buying Pillsbury two days in advance of the announcement this summer. I know other useful information, so if someone wants to email the General Mills' Sr. VP - Corp. Affairs, Sec., Gen. Counsel Siri Marshall [mailto] to tell him that persuing the "bake-off" infringement is a bad idea, go ahead :) Another good person to try would be Raymond Viault [mailto], who is the vice chairman of the board of directors and is in charge of the General Mills/Pillsbury "transition team."
  • Here's the message I just posted to Pillsbury's bulletin board [mealtimeideas.com] (submissions are apparently reviewed before they're posted...all the better -- we know somebody there has to read it!):

    • Leave the geeks alone, damnt! Programmers have been getting together in what they have referred to since at least 1979 as "bake-offs" to test communication software (such that today comprises the Internet you're using to read this message) against each other in a non-profit effort to improve digital communication protocols. Nobody ever shows up with a casserole. If they show up with cookies, it's completely coincidental. Pillsbury lost their opportunity to defend their 51-year-old copyright on the phrase "bake-off" a long time ago. If this were a porno club or something referring to large groups of masturbators as a "bake-off", I could see how that could be damaging to Pillsbury's business, but by the GODS PLEASE leave the geeks alone. Find me one customer this has confused. One. "Oh, TCP/IP...I thought you meant angel food cake..." Get real, Pillsbury. Looks like my next purchase in the realm of baking needs is going to come from Duncan Hines, and I doubt much of the geek community will disagree with me.

    All are encouraged to post something similar. We'll squash this before it ever gets to the court.

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"
  • Rob, please lose the "can of SPAM luncheon meat" icon for topic spam. Why should he? Unless Hormel comes after VA Linux or OSDN, I don't see a compelling reason to do so. Even then, it's not likely that Hormel would win such a suit. Wouldn't the image of the can fall under fair use exemptions?
  • But, in this day and age, how much of a company's behavior is actually controlled by the lawyers?


    Next time I have lunch with my ex-co-workers over at the bank, I'm going to ask them why the "got cash?" signs on their cash dispensers (nee ATM's) got replaced with "get cash!" on one side and just "cash?" on the other. I suspect they didn't get a nastygram from whichever dairy organization holds the trademark (which I'm in violation of, by the way, having a burp cloth on which the baby's grandma embroidered "got milk?" next to a pacifier [geocities.com]...), but rather from their own lawyers.

  • Bayer AG still owns the "Aspirin" trademark in most of the world. They lost their trademark on Aspirin in the US not as a result of disuse, but of WWII. Check out aspirin.com [aspirin.com] for yourself.


  • When are these guys going to learn you can't copyright common terminology like this?

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!
  • <humor>
    Pilsbury Legal Offices:

    The head lawyer rises at the mahogany table and begins to speak. "Gentlemen, we have to crack down on the unwashed masses using our trademark terms. The NAZI 'final solution' practices taught us that we need to start small. If we jump straight to suing the schools who dilute our trademarks, we'll have a public outcry, but if they're the last stage of the plan, no one will whimper because they'll know it's just part of the program. The question is, where do we begin?"

    One of the drones raises his hand, "Sir, I think we need a group that the masses already fear. People who are ridiculed and downtrodden, yet not the focal point of sympathy. We need to start with a group who is the focal point of many people's frustration, rage and fear, people who are misunderstood and picked on by the popular people who everyone looks up to."

    The head lawyer frowns at the drone, "And where are we going to find a group of people who use our trade marks, are not very popular and are either hated , feared or detested by the masses?"

    The drone smiles. "Computer geeks use the term 'bake-off' for software testing."

    The head lawyer's eyes light up. "Drone 2974, you're a genius! Start the cease and desist letters immediately!"

  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @03:26PM (#493522)
    Sorry, Bayer didn't lose their Aspirin trademark in WWII - it was actually stripped from them (at least within the US, France, UK, and Russia) by the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919 at the end of WWI!

    Another trademark was stripped from Bayer in that treaty - Heroin.

    See about.com's aspirin page [about.com].


  • It would be really nice if someone who got one of these threatening letters could post it. Certainly there is nothing in the Salon article to suggest that the Pillsbury complaint has a shred of merit, or that the case isn't being brought years too late. But without a copy of the actual claims, it's always a little dangerous to speculate; reporters sometimes miss something.

    That said, I am having a lot of trouble even imagining what a meritorious claim for Pillsbury would look like on these facts.

    Public relations fiasco, anyone?

  • by TDScott ( 260197 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:17PM (#493526)
    The fabulous Baker Boys?

    Sherlock Holmes (who lived at Baker Street)?

    Jerry Rafferty (who played "Baker Street")?

    Kevin Bake-on?

    Who knows? Lawyers know no bounds...
  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:17PM (#493527)
    I don't think the phrase "b4k3-0ffz" is copyrighted yet.
  • In related news, Bill Gates of microsoft announced he would be filling suit against the Pilsbury Dough-boy for wrongfully using the word "dough", which bill claims is the sole owner of.

    Also in related News, Creative Labs had announced the sending out of Cease and Decists to Orchestra's around the world as a method to have said orchestra's stop blasting sound.
  • "Let's have a f*** off instead!"
  • Whats next in line? Them fining school "bake-offs" and such?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:20PM (#493539)
    mmmm... [tripod.com]
  • >So why aren't they suing comedy festivals?

    Maybe they are? BTW: is sending a threating C&D letter the same a 'suing'?

    >After all, that's the first url found by google.

    Hmm... have to try others now and see if it is the same...

    yahoo, altavista, excite and lycos all show pilsbury 1st

  • I know what it does and how it works.

    It has _nothing_ to do with transfering actual media over networks and everything to do with initiating the media sessions. SIP doesn't care what, how, or if there is media involved. Its only purpose is to intiate tcp sessions.

    I added the comment about 3G wireless to get people interested in it. I most certainly did not state that it was limited to that.
  • From the list linked to in the parent:

    "Monopoly" for a real estate-trading board game

    I think I'd still check with a lawyer before I release my own "Monopoly" game no matter what this list says.

    There are other's on the list that I cannot believe were ever trademarked (e.g. Honey Baked Ham)

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @02:45PM (#493547) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure you're wrong about the case having no merit

    Actually, trademarks only apply to other uses in the same trade. So they will first have to show that the geek bake-off is in fact trade (believable), and that the trade is in food service (never in a million years).

    I'm sure Pillsbury's lawyers know very well that the claim is absurd at best and are relying on intimidation to do what the law won't.

    Personally, I think lawyers who participate in that sort of intimidation should be disciplined by the Bar or the courts. It's not much better than robbing a bank w/ a toy gun.

  • You know, it's really tough sometimes to figure out who to cheer for [netfunny.com] (yes, that's a parody, but with not a little basis in reality).

    On a more serious note, isn't the phrase "bake-off" sufficiently descriptive that it may contradict guidelines on what is and isn't trademarkable? As the OSI [opensource.org] found with their failed attempt to secure the "Open Source" trademark?

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:24PM (#493553) Homepage
    Some time ago, this [lectlaw.com] text circulated arount the net. It was funny then - how times change...
  • by Raul Acevedo ( 15878 ) <raul.cantara@com> on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:25PM (#493558) Homepage
    After all, they invented web cookies.
  • What, you didn't find any porn?

    Amazingly enough, I didn't find any obvious porn. It's possable that actually following all of the links would have revealed stealth porn sites, but I didn't try that.

  • If the legal dept. in your company is forced to create imaginary threats in order to justify it's existance and expense, then you have larger internal problems to worry about than somebody using your "name".

  • They better get in touch with these folks, [yahoo.com] too.
  • yes, especially given that they were able to use the trademark to force "anti-Monopoly" off the market 15-20 years ago . . .
  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:33PM (#493567) Homepage Journal
    Dear God in Heaven, PLEASE let this be a joke. This is a hoax, right? Pillsbury isn't REALLY this stupid and asinine, is it? Their lawyeres aren't really this insane are they????????

    I'll just have to boycott them. Whose with me?

    Come on, you know being boycotted by a group that probably makes up 40% of their business would hurt the suckers, and it's not like boycotting the MPAA because there are a LOT of alternatives to Pillsbury products!

    Let's go to the bulletin board [mealtimeideas.com] on their web site and post what we think of them, shall we??

    http://www.matthewmiller.net [matthewmiller.net]

  • Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I thought that the dilution theory only applied to "famous marks". Also, this act can't be applied retro-actively, and the dilution has been occuring prior to 1996.
  • These bakeoffs are heald to test compatability between products that use the Session Initiation Protocol [columbia.edu], which is going to be used to route calls and media for the next generation of wireless devices (PDA's, Cell phones, etc). 3G wireless promises 2Mbps transfer rates with roll outs starting as early as this summer (for the Isle of Man atleast). Rock on.
  • by chris_sawtell ( 10326 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @03:47PM (#493577) Journal
    They are just doing to get World-Wide publicity for free, and all you dotty slashers have fallen for it, hook line and sinker.
  • Perhaps if they had some more product liability lawsuits to occupy them. Maybe someone could burn themselves on a hot biscuit...
  • But you should have blamed yt!

    - Grasshopa
  • I found Hormel's comment interesting:

    This slang term does not affect the strength of our trademark SPAM. In a Federal District Court case involving the famous trademark STAR WARS owned by LucasFilms,[sic] the Court ruled that the slang term used to refer to the Strategic Defense Initiative did not weaken the trademark and the Court refused to stop its use as a slang term. Other examples of famous trademarks having a different slang meaning include MICKEY MOUSE, to describe something as unsophisticated; TEFLON, used to describe President Reagan; and CADILLAC, used to denote something as being high quality.

    So you can spam all your friends saying that the Teflon President's Mickey Mouse "Star Wars" program wasn't exactly the Cadillac of defense initiatives, and that's okay as long as you don't SPAM your friends with this info.

  • Any LAWYERS in the house?

    If so what on earth are you doing about this?

    Lawyers follow money, it's true. But lawsuits like these are so widely percieved as absurd that I don't see how so many lawyers are taking the risk of bringing up these cases.

    Please inform me! Is this similar to what can often happen in technical fields, when some buzzword or management strategy breezes through the magazine circut like a typhus epidemic, causing thousands of lawyers to chase trademark, copyright and patent cases all at once?

    Or is there some movement in lawyers' organizations to protect people's rights, something like a jurisprudential EFF? [eff.org]
  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Saturday January 20, 2001 @01:38PM (#493589)
    Finally, a use for anonymous cowards.

    All you ACs out there, go down to the public or school library and sneak your way onto a browser.

    Wear a disguise, since they all have time lapse video now. Shave your legs so they are smooth and sexy, and wear a cheerleader outfit or something. Practice singing "We got spirit, yes we do, we got spirit, how about you".

    Email an anonymous tip to the FBI, Microsoft and the SPI (or whatever that place is) stating that you are a sysadmin for Pillsbury, and your boss made you do 250 illegal installs of Office and NT last Wednesday in the Legal Dept. of the Pillsbury Corporate Offices.

    Hee, Hee, Hee.

  • Pillsbury is not that sharp. I know someone who dumped a whole fast food chain on them. Not only did the doughboys pay too much, my friend opened a new and better chain across the street from all the high traffic stores.

    Pillsbury could have done something nice instead aim to be Slashdotted for stupidity. It would have been cheaper to create something useful than it was to waste legal billing. If they wanted to be slashdotted, they might have made a GPL cookbook, calorie counter, anything. If they wanted to make news in a self interested way, they could have decreed they want to use some kind of Free software in their daily operations.

    Pillsbury is much more than dough. They own [slashdot.org] the jolly green giant, ice cream, fast food, and all sorts of things that have nothing to do with baking. Thinking morons are in charge of such massive capital and wealth is not comforting, but it's not new to me either.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.