Makers Of Nutella Force Fan Who Created World Nutella Day To Shut It Down [Updated]

from the raining-on-everyone's-parade dept

Update: As of today, there are reports that Ferrero has been in contact with Sarah Russo and has worked out an arrangement by which Nutella Day will be reinstated with the company’s blessing. The company is blaming the cease & desist on over-zealous lawyers as opposed to any public backlash. This may satisfy some people, while others will note that aggressive intellectual property laws and protection lead to this kind of collateral damage all the time.

Ferrero, the makers of Nutella, a hazelnut/chocolate spread that enjoys a love from people that I’ll never understand (disclaimer: I hate chocolate), sure doesn’t like anyone to use anything remotely like its name ever. You may not recall that it pushed back against the P2P network Gnutella a decade ago over their name being too similar. While you could argue that might be at least somewhat understandable, how about when the company went legal on a smoothie shop for selling a shake that used its product and had the daring gall to, you know, tell people what was in it? Well, perhaps you think that at least Ferrero was targeting a commercial enterprise, even if doing so resulted in one less shop buying Nutella. I mean, it isn’t like the company was going after ordinary customers who liked its product, right?

Well, ChurchHatesTucker writes in to inform us that Ferrero is doing exactly that, because f#$@ the fans, damn it. See, there is apparently something called World Nutella Day, which is ironically on my birthday (God, I hate Nutella…), where one website encourages everyone on the planet to cook something with Nutella. This, naturally, requires people to buy Nutella. Or it did, rather, until Ferrero threatened the creator of World Nutella Day with a cease and desist, forcing her to shut down the site completely. Via World Nutella Day founder, Sara Rosso:

On May 25, 2013, I’ll be darkening the World Nutella Day site, nutelladay.com, and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), in compliance with a cease-and-desist I received from lawyers representing Ferrero, SpA (makers of Nutella). The cease-and-desist letter was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment, as over the years I’ve had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferrero, SpA., and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants, and I’ve always tried to collaborate and work together in the spirit and goodwill of a fan-run celebration of a spread I (to this day) still eat.

Yup, you read that correctly. The makers of Nutella darkened a website purely designed to promote its product, even after directly working with Rosso for the last seven years. It’s almost as if Ferrero doesn’t want anyone to eat Nutella, with which I happen to whole-heartedly agree. No attempt to work out some kind of an arrangement, no even-handed license of the trademark, no humanity whatsoever. It’s just, “Hey, thanks for being a fan, now shut it all down because the lawyers flipped out and somehow think you’re harming us.”

Honestly, the stunning part to me is how genteel Rosso appears to be about all this.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours interacting with you, the fans, collecting and sharing your contributions, updating the World Nutella Day website with more than 700 recipes which were painstakingly gathered from bloggers sending me their posts and by scouring the internet for the best Nutella recipes, Tweeting and sharing on Facebook your favorite sayings, stories, and links about Nutella, and encouraging everyone to try it just once! Thanks for letting me be a part of that – it was truly a labor of love by a fan and something I did as a fan, in my (very little) spare time, and I have a full-time job I love. I hope that February 5th stays alive in your hearts and on your spoons, and hopefully it’s arrivederci (see you soon) and not addio (goodbye).

It’s hard to imagine someone sounding so sweet over the company of which she’s a fan pulling such a brash and damnable move. I’d be livid, not hoping to start the site back up once Ferrero had a stupidectomy. I might even be encouraging everyone within earshot not to buy from a company that would pull this kind of stunt. Then again, perhaps I’m not as sweet as Russo because I’m not filled with Nutella spread. Who knows, but I’m sure there are many former customers of Nutella today.

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Comments on “Makers Of Nutella Force Fan Who Created World Nutella Day To Shut It Down [Updated]”

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58 Comments
kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Thanks for reporting on this. When I submitted this a few days ago, I didn’t think Techdirt would cover it. But, it was odd because many news media websites had also supported “World Nutella Day” and it had became so huge that the event and the fan website had become a ‘media covered event” and now Nutella is shutting it down.

I wonder if Nutella is just trying to gain control over this in an effort to make money from it. But, it’s a crying shame because Nutella has been getting slammed from Nutella consumers and they’re hitting back with a lot of hateful comments aimed at Nutella’s direction.

I think this is something that Nutella needs to step back and admit that they made a mistake.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: TIL...

Over here in the UK, we’ve got a franchise called Shakeaway that does blended milkshakes with various ingredients. Refreshers, Snickers, Oreos, you name it.

Having one with peanut butter and Nutella is especially nice. I recommend it (although PB/Nutella sandwich goes well too).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 TIL...

There’s one up in Edinburgh, on Rose Street. Most of the other stores are in England.

There’s also another franchise group called Shakebar, which is damn near the same thing though, there’s one in Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow, a small one in the Livingston outlet mall, and one next to the jewelry places across from the Thistle Centre in Stirling, right before the road leading up to the castle.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

This is typically the kind of situation that happens when lawyers are allowed to become too influential in the board room. Too many companies base decisions on what their lawyers tell them rather than applying actual business logic. Sometimes a business should listen to its lawyers, but keep in mind that they tend to see the world in terms of extremes. Just because you CAN shut something down does not mean you SHOULD shut that thing down.

velox (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“This is typically the kind of situation that happens when lawyers are allowed to become too influential”

You are exactly right.
There is also another related [poor] business strategy: Sign on with a consulting firm that will provide “full service” protection of your brands and IP. In that situation, the business may not even be directly involved in the decision to do send this type of letter.

Hint for the MBA set: Any time your decision making process consists of “leaving it up to” someone who is in a different business than you, watch out. They may be making decisions that are not necessarily in your best interest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Every day it's the same thing

Rabid lawyers pounce on product’s fans, company’s reputation gets dragged through the mud for no good reason.
Why does this keep happening? Are there just that many companies out there with no control over their legal teams, who apparently could not care less about the collateral damage as long as they can keep racking up billable hours?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Every day it's the same thing

It seems to be a very common occurance.

Blizzard, who is known for being relatively lax on enforcement, went legal on Valve for the names of the heroes in DOTA 2.

I think there is something very wrong with the way enforcement is forced on companies to keep a consistent line on allowing use. To me it would seem relatively easy to make a standard contract describing what you will allow the product to be used for without needing licensing (which should be copyright as it stands today) and having standard licenses for the most common uses like non-corporate non-profit, commercial and transformative commercial.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Every day it's the same thing

“Why does this keep happening?”

Because lawyers don’t really care about the publicity and reputation aspects as long as they get paid, and the companies have been conned into thinking they need aggressive copyright and trademark defences from the lawyers. Until they wake up and realise that the collateral damage can actually be worse than whatever they’re defending against to begin with, it will continue.

Anonymous Coward says:

it would be a smart move now to try to get the fan site back up and running and get rid of the idiot lawyer that issued the cease and desist and then get rid of whoever the plum is that agreed with the take down. i would have thought that every company out there wants as many positive reports on the products as possible!

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why do people always cave

What huge cost?

They are probably bluffing and won’t really sue.

If they do, you write a letter to the court saying “this is BS”, then show up and say it again in person.

No lawyers involved. If it’s an open-and-shut case, you’ll still win.

If you lose, you can still appeal on the basis that you had a lousy lawyer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Read up on the history of Veoh. It doesn’t matter if the law’s on your side, or even if you get a “not guilty” verdict. If a big company doesn’t like you, it can and will drag you into court until you go bankrupt.
The court system is broken. Even judges are starting to recognize it. Hopefully at some point we’ll switch to a “loser pays” legal system, but until then…

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Dear Ferrero SpA

Until recently, I used to recommend your product, Nutella, over all others, but I will now instead recommend supermarket own brands on the basis that they taste very similar, have near identical nutritional values, and are a lot easier on the pocket. I have taken this decision in light of the fact that any promotion of your brands could lead to litigation, so I am now going to do the exact opposite.
Yours very sincerely, Sheogorath.
P.S. Ferrero Rocher are not ‘eccellente’.

tawsenior (profile) says:

There has been an update posted on Facebook

WORLD NUTELLA DAY: A POSITIVE CONCLUSION

Positive direct contact between Ferrero and Sara Rosso, owner of the non-official Nutella fan page World Nutella Day, has brought an end to the case.
Ferrero would like to express to Sara Rosso its sincere gratitude for her passion for Nutella, gratitude which is extended to all fans of the World Nutella Day.
The case arose from a routine brand defense procedure that was activated as a result of some misuse of the Nutella brand on the fan page.
Ferrero is pleased to announce that today, after contacting Sara Rosso and finding together the appropriate solutions, it immediately stopped the previous action.
Ferrero considers itself fortunate to have such devoted and loyal fans of its Nutella spread, like Sara Rosso.

John85851 (profile) says:

Not acceptable

“It’s just, “Hey, thanks for being a fan, now shut it all down because the lawyers flipped out and somehow think you’re harming us.” “

Where did they say “thanks for being a fan”?

Also, can we please, please stop with the “overzealous lawyers” and “third-party affiliates” nonsense. The company HIRED these lawyers to issue takedown notices, and I’m guessing without the oversight of the company. In turn, the lawyers make money by billing the company for all the hours they spend finding sites and taking down notices- it’s not their job to decide which sites are good or bad.

The company should he held MORE responsible when something like this happens.

Who’s up for starting “Protest Nutella Day”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not acceptable

you are not wrong that the issue is insufficient supervision of the lawyers sending out these notices, but it is important that it was a third party sending out the notices, because it is a different kind of stupidity. Incidentally, the reason why the notice is sent out is because there was apparently some form of misuse of the trademark. Legally, you have to enforce a trademark, or you lose it.

Reality Check says:

Re: Re: Not acceptable

Actually enforcing a trademark is NOTHING like harassing a fan. NOTHING.

Enforcing a trademark is preventing others from labeling their chocolate hazelnut spread with a logo and/or name that looks like yours, so that an ‘idiot in a hurry’ would mistakenly buy their product thinking it was yours.

Enforcing a trademark is completely unrelated to harassing people who use your trademark to refer to YOUR product.

That’s the key, this person was actually referring to Nutella. So, no trademark infringement, just common everyday IP bullying and lunacy.

Andreas (profile) says:

There won’t be a single former customer today, as this combination of industrial fat and industrial sugar (traces of nut and cocoa can be found for marketing purposes) is a highly addictive drug, aimed at kids and women. When you eat it, your level of serotonine will shoot up in no time (just like with Ben & Jerrys), so once you’re an addict, it is very hard to quit, because the natural production of serotonine has gone down.

It’s like showing an article about an overdose-victim to a pusher and hoping he will stop – not gonna happen.

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