Another day, another ridiculous trademark claim. Ubiquitous sandwich shop Subway threatened a hot dog provider in Coney Island who had been selling "footlong" hotdogs for decades, claiming that it had applied for a trademark on "footlong." The cease and desist demanded that the company cease using the designation for their hotdogs (and on their website, which is GoFootlongs.com).
There are all sorts of problems with this. First, the trademark is only applied for, so Subway doesn't even know if it's going to get the trademark. Demanding a cease & desist is a bit premature. Also, it's hard to see the USPTO approving this (one hopes), seeing as "footlong" is purely descriptive, and you're not allowed (in theory) to get trademarks on something that is purely descriptive.
Even so, when the folks at Planet Money (who have a sudden, if amusingly odd, interest in trademark law), called Subway, the company claimed that the cease & desist was a mistake. A "clerical error," a spokesperson claimed. I'm confused how a clerical error leads to a legal threat, but such is life these days. The error was apparently that Subway only intends to bully those selling "footlong" sandwiches, rather than "footlong" other things, such as hot dogs.