Bonobos Issues 'Cease & Insist' To Katy Perry After It Promised To Sell Left Shark Suits

from the legal-marketing dept

So the saga of the Left Shark and Katy Perry’s lawyers keeps getting more and more strange. We’ve already covered the legal threat from Perry’s lawyers to the guy who was offering a 3D printed figurine of the Left Shark, followed by the response explaining to Perry’s lawyers that there is no copyright in left shark, leading to Perry’s lawyers to issue a uh huh there is… while also using the figurine maker’s own photo of his 3D printed shark in their (now abandoned) trademark application.

So, what could make this situation stranger? Bonobos. You know, the hip and trendy pants company? Right, so back during the Superbowl, their social media folks tried to get in on some of that sweet sweet free Super Bowl advertising, and tweeted, asking if they should crowdfund a project to start selling a Katy Perry shark costume:

And, apparently, the company felt there was at least enough interest to set up a site for people to express interest, if not a full crowdfunding campaign:
But, now, the Bonobos people have read about the legal threat over the 3D figurine, and rather than recognizing that there is no copyright interest at all here, have decided to try to milk this advertising opportunity go the safe, boring route of “asking for permission” in a rather public way, sending a “cease and insist” letter to Perry. In the tweet announcing it, they ask people to retweet “so we can make this damn suit.”
If you can’t read it, the letter says:

NOTICE to Cease listening to your lawyers and Insist you let Bonobos make the shark suit.

Dear Katy Perry:

We’re impressed. Like, really impressed. First, you tamed a creepy lion-robot thing, and then you conquered Marine Biology. Neither Jacques Cousteau nor Taylor Swift ever discovered a sea creature as adorable as Left Shark! In the history of pop music and oceanic sciences, this is a first. And maybe a last. Sigh.

Look, Katy. We have a problem. Our marketing team got amped up on Skittles and did something reckless. During a popular Sunday football game we promised the Internet shark suits, because duh. But then came Monday morning, and our lawyers gave us the shame stare. You know, the “we’er not angry, just disappointed.” Except they were also angry. Mostly angry, actually.

Apparently, we cannot sell shark costumes without your permission. In addition to being an esteemed marine biologist, you are also, it appears, a legal guardian for sharks. With that in mind, this is our humble offer: allow us to sell shark suits, and we’ll donate all profits to the charity of your choice. You have 10 days to respond, or we’ll wait longer.



Of course, while the letter is a mocking advertisement more than any actual legally sound statements, the claim that Perry has any legal claim over the shark costume is highly questionable, though it is entirely possible that in a fit of liability avoidance that Bonobos lawyers legitimately said the company should try to get permission — even if none is actually needed.

Either way, what Perry should do is exactly what lawyer Chris Sprigman originally suggested in his letter to her lawyers over the 3D printed Left Shark: just let it go. The Left Shark is an internet meme, and Perry should celebrate it, not try to claim made up intellectual property claims over it.

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Companies: bonobos

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Comments on “Bonobos Issues 'Cease & Insist' To Katy Perry After It Promised To Sell Left Shark Suits”

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Anonymous Coward says:

There are few occurrences that so clearly bring to light the failings of the copyright system, and the sheer greed and ‘control-ism’ of the entertainment industry as this story of the Left Shark. I am (and have been for a long time) an avid follower of Techdirt, and this may be the most bizarre narrative I’ve ever read. These reports are truly facepalm-worthy.

My question is thus: is all of this really the result of a decision by Ms. Perry, or is it another example of sheer industry stupidity. Just because they are using her name does not mean she is actually involved.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My question is thus: is all of this really the result of a decision by Ms. Perry, or is it another example of sheer industry stupidity.

I would like to know that as well. A lot of the discussion seems to assume that it’s Perry doing all this, but it seems more likely it’s the label and their lawyers. Anyone know if she’s made any public statement about the whole thing? Maybe she doesn’t even care enough to bother.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think Katy Perry really exists anymore as an individual whose people even can act in her name. Once someone reaches a critical mass of money and popularity, it seems like a kind of retcon-idoru process takes place.

The person, especially someone who has legitimate talent, is cut into pieces, disassembled into component parts. The parts are modified and polished, and spare bits (chosen by committee) are brought in: these are then reassembled into a shiny simulacrum of the original. Katy Perry has become Recombinant Katy Perry, who is no longer a person but simply an attribute of a larger structure. This attribute can only act within methods implemented by the lawyers.

Or something like that… it’s late, and I’ve had way too much coffee.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Or, put into Hollywood’s words, “Your unique distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is useless. We are The Borg.” Perry’s skills in the entertainment arts have been assimilated, by contractual agreement.

Done via malicious breakage of tort law by politicians in bed with lobbyists, enforced by shock trooping lawyers and credulous or senile judges.

patrick says:


Since Im not a Katy Perry fan and didn’t watch the Superbowl, I had no idea what this article was about. I mean, seriously, I thought I had finally had a damn stroke or a flashback from , umm, earlier days and nights. I’m reading this thinking “what the hell is a left shark and why are people making a fuss?” Imagine taking this same article into a retirement home , reading out loud, and asking for feedback. I’m getting to old for this, damn kids and their damn sharks, and not just regular sharks, special ” left” sharks! I still have no idea what that means and why its important! Maybe the person who came up with that was with me in the um, earlier days and nights…

tqk (profile) says:

Re: ummmm.

I know exactly what you mean, and I mostly agree or sympathize, but I can help you understand. Remember that “wardrobe malfunction” business? Yup, same sorta BS, sans the Xtian Right’s horror that one of those two dots that everyone has on their chests “got into the public eye” (if only fleetingly, in slow-mo). The NFL appears to be a serial offender in the realm of stupidity; too much money aggregated into the same place, I think. Hopefully, this episode will disappear momentarily and not drag on for years as that one did.

It’s sad here though, as I had a bit of respect for Perry. Lawyers can ruin anything, it seems. Thank your elected representatives for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, let’s see. Girl goes on stage with shark suited assistants. audience loves them. Guy tries to sell shark figurines, shaped like costumes. Whoever designed the costumes MIGHT have a copyright claim, she doesn’t. Girl hires lawyers to block sale. Lawyers get angry at someone trying to make money off of their brothers and file suit. Makes perfect sense – professional courtesy.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Ride the wave

This has demonstrated the difference between artists who know how to ride the wave of popularity that surrounds a meme, like Psy, and those who don’t. Kate could have rode the Left Shark wave to the bank, Gangnam Style, but chose to listen to a money grubbing lawyer. Now she’s not only lost her chance to ride the wave, she got swamped by the wave instead.

Christenson says:

Awesomely GRABBING ON to Left Shark...

Katy Perry should GRAB ON to Left Shark, hard….by having her lawyers send out letters that these various creators *must* send copies to her next show, which will of course, feature left shark…How about Katy Perry herself as “Left Shark”????

Ms Perry and team, you do realize that the average Techdirt reader would not know who you are without “Left Shark!”. Make the most of it!

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