Chicago Field Museum Decides To Embrace Cross-Promotion Instead Of Trademark Protectionism With Brewery
from the to-sue-or-not-to-sue dept
When it comes to trademark issues, we tend to keep our pages filled with stories about disputes, bullying, and over-protectionism. While we try to highlight good-actors on matters of trademark, those stories are too few and far between for our tastes. With that in mind, why not start off the new year with one such example?
Toppling Goliath is a brewery in Iowa with a number of regular and seasonal beers. One of those is PseudoSue, an ale with a label that features a roaring Tyrannosaurus rex. Anyone from the Chicago area is likely already thinking of our beloved Field Museum and the enormous T. rex fossil skeleton of Sue, who the museum tends to dress up like some kind of prehistoric barbie doll whenever one of our local sports teams has themselves a particularly good season. The museum has a trademark registration for Sue that covers all kinds of mechandise and initially reacted as readers of this site will have come to expect.
“Initially the Field Museum was very hard line about” wanting to protect their trademark of the name Sue used with the image of a T. Rex, said Martha Engel, an intellectual property attorney who represents Toppling Goliath.
But, instead, the stance of those at the museum -- ahem -- evolved into one more cooperative with the brewery. Rather than going the protectionist route, both parties talked through a more amicable solution: a full-blown partnership to benefit both sides.
But, ultimately, the brewery owners and the marketing executives at the museum got together and decided to create a cross-promotion scheme rather than launch a legal fight.
“It became obvious that we could work well together,” Clark Lewey, a co-owner of the brewery, said. As part of the deal, Toppling Goliath will print new labels for PseudoSue and another beer called King Sue that promote the Field Museum and Sue, the T. Rex.
This example set by a brewery and a museum ought to serve as the antidote to the poison that is the most common excuse for trademark bullies: trademarks must be protected jealously or they will be lost. As this story shows, that isn't remotely true. Nor, by the way, is such protectionism the most optimal route for the trademark holder. By partnering with the brewery, the museum gets the promotion through the beer label and name. It also gets a nice PR story, along with an exclusive untapping of a beer within the Chicago market.
And all without the billable hours charged by the museum's attorneys.