Olive Garden At It Again Enforcing Its IP Instead Of Letting Anyone Have Some Fun With Joke NFTs

from the wyhyf dept

You all know about Olive Garden. It's the chain of... oh, let's just play along and call them Italian restaurants that have unlimited breadsticks and names of supposedly Italian offerings that appear to have gotten their names by inputting a bunch of Italian food words into a dilapidated AI program that combines them into a series of unholy dish-names. Sure, there's "Shrimp Scampi", but there is also "Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno" and "Lasagna Fritta". I kid of course, but the chain and its parent company, Darden, have also found their way onto Techdirt in the past by being overly aggressive when it comes to trademark enforcement. For instance, Darden attempted to shut down the site allofgarden.com, which was dedicated to tongue in cheek reviews of the chain's dishes. Darden later apologized for that, blaming some kind of legal bot that crawls for potential trademark infringements on the brand.

We'll have to see if something similar happens here, as Darden is now going after a site that jokingly sells NFTs to "own" individual Olive Garden locations and/or simply get NFT tokens for free unlimited breadsticks. The site, nonfungibleolivegardens.com has actually sold out of individual locations, but points to a secondary market. The breadstick tokens are, as are their real life counterparts, free and unlimited. Olive Garden's imagery and name appear all over the site, naturally, and the site's Twitter account confirmed that the site's host, OpenSea, had received a takedown demand (the recipients incorrectly call it a "DMCA" takedown, even though it's about trademarks).

Now, again, Darden IP appears all over those pages. That being said, the site has general language and a specific Q&A on its home page that makes it abundantly clear that it is not affiliated with the real life Olive Garden in any way. This is all one giant joke, in other words, albeit one where some measure of real money is changing hands. It's also built to be a place for Olive Garden enthusiasts to express that enthusiasm. From the homepage:

For too long, ownership of Olive Garden franchises has been dominated by the capricious whims of the fiat system. That’s why we’re enabling anyone to trustlessly mint a nonfungible token representing 1 of 880 real Olive Garden franchises in the United States.

Our goal is to bootstrap a community of Olive Garden enthusiasts, which is why the franchise mint price is tethered to the reasonable cost of a Tour Of Italy entree ($19.99, as of Dec 20, 2021).

And later, in the Q&A:

Is this affiliated with Olive Garden?

No. We are simply a community of Olive Garden fans invested in both trustless future economies and delicious, reasonably-priced Italian fare.

Hell, the entire "business plan roadmap" the site lays out involves plans for celebrity influencers, "Layer 2 on-chain curbside pickup", and the eventual buyout of Olive Garden from Darden. The whole thing is done for funsies. Which means that the Darden folks could figure out a way to get involved with the fun, instead of trying to stamp it out. Whether they will or not remains to be seen.

But NFGO certainly isn't backing down. In addition to the response letter the site sent, which you can see in the embedded/linked tweet above, they've also come out with two new NFT tokens. Those would be for -- you guessed it -- the takedown notice they received and that response letter.

Because when you're here, you're hilarious.

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Filed Under: enthusiasm, fans, nfts, olive garden, takedown, trademark
Companies: darden restaurants, olive garden


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Jan 2022 @ 8:49pm

    Just couldn't help pulling another Nintendo I see

    Ah Olive Garden, given the choice to embrace their most loyal customers and enjoy the gains that would come from it they just cannot help but shoot themselves and their fans in the foot and back respectively.

    Whatever lawyers are sending these threats they really need to be fired and replaced, they're much more of a threat to the company than the fans they are threatening could ever be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2022 @ 9:23am

      Re: Just couldn't help pulling another Nintendo I see

      I think NFTs using anybody’s IP without their permission (and NFTs with their permission, and really just NFTs in general) are cancer. Comparing this to some heavy-handed Nintendo DMCA stuff misses the mark.

      Really, I think this whole article where the thrust is “Yeah, they’re using the company’s IP without their permission to create shit where lots of real-world $ and value is changing hands and they’re using climate-killing cryptocurrency, but THE FUNSIES, THO!!1!” misses the mark in so many ways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2022 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re: Just couldn't help pulling another Nintendo I see

        Trademarks are for a specific and narrow purpose.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Tanner Andrews (profile), 13 Jan 2022 @ 2:41am

        Re: Re: Just couldn't help pulling another Nintendo I see

        The problem with the AC's argument is that, while NFOG is using OG trademarks, it is using them specifically to refer to OG and its products. That is the quintessential nominative fair use.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Jan 2022 @ 9:15pm

    Anyone got any marshmallows?

    On one hand, I can see how this comes off as over-aggressive IP protection from Olive Garden. On the other hand, fuck NFTs.

    I say let them both burn each other while I cook some s’mores over the flames.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2022 @ 4:17am

      Re: Anyone got any marshmallows?

      No, please... Don't cook your s'mores over the fires of burning NFTs doused with trademark maximalism. Or if you do, don't wear your good clothes. Those protectionist stains will never come out of the blockchain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Jan 2022 @ 10:20pm

    Microwave - The Head Chef at Olive Garden.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2022 @ 4:15am

    Might take another look...

    The content for the Darden letter is all about trademark, sure. But the header for the Darden letter indicates "Group: Copyright", rather than trademark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 11 Jan 2022 @ 4:34am

    What do you expect

    from a company whose name is an anagram of Orange Devil?

    Considering the sour taste this leaves in the mouth, I think they've hit the vinegar lode.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    realitymonster (profile), 11 Jan 2022 @ 4:53am

    Aren't all NFTs a joke, tho'?

    Frankly, NFTs and the Olive Garden deserve one another. A pox on both their houses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tirear, 11 Jan 2022 @ 8:38am

      Re: Aren't all NFTs a joke, tho'?

      Aren't all NFTs a joke, tho'?

      Are you suggesting that a humor website used a joke? Who ever would have guessed?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2022 @ 7:12am

    I always thought 'Olive Garden' was what Popeye and Bluto call her unshaved 'ladyparts'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2022 @ 9:17am

    Counterpoint: The NFTs being sold over time, away from the site where people can see it’s “just for funsies”, may eventually cause brand confusion and people think they’re actually getting thise breadsticks or franchises. People who are into NFTs and want them to become a huge part of the future digital economy are pretty fucking stupid to begin with, too.

    In a fight between a restaurant conglomerate that serves up bad Italian-adjacent food and some NFT grifter fucks using their IP, let the restaurant conglomerate win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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