from the monster-bullies dept
Well, it looks like after years and years of articles highlighting what an incredible trademark bully Monster Cable has been, the company has finally realized that maybe (sorta) it needs to reconsider its strategy (maybe). At least that’s what I take from the news that the company has settled its trademark dispute with Monster Mini Golf that got plenty of attention when the Monster Mini Golf folks took to eBay to get out the word about how they were being bullied.
At some point, Monster Cable realized it was losing the PR battle (really badly) in this whole thing, and tried a new tack, claiming that it was just a small family business doing what it was required to do to defend its trademarks. Then it offered up a bogus “deal” whereby it pulled the lawsuit it had filed but still demanded that Monster Mini Golf pay it to “license” the name, though it promised to donate the money to charity. That’s emotional bribery.
Either way, the matter was settled as 2008 came to a close when the top two folks from each company held a conference call without their lawyers present (initially, the lawyers were there, but they kicked them out). Monster Mini Golf can now go ahead with its trademark application and Monster Cable agreed to pay their legal fees. Monster Cable’s CEO even issued an apology (sorta). After talking up how nice it was to work out an amicable deal in person without lawyers, he states:
I will say that this is a landmark kind of situation, as public opinion wins over what is the right thing to do for trademark protection of a famous mark. We have made the decision that public opinion, and that of our valued customers is more important than the letter of the law that requires us to prevent the dilution of our mark risk losing it.
Of course, it’s not a landmark situation at all (even for Monster Cable — who’s been known to be on the receiving end of similar public relations nightmares for similar actions in the past). And, he’s wrong that this is a case where “public opinion wins over what is the right thing to do for trademark protection.” Monster Cable’s overly aggressive attempts to block pretty much anyone from using “Monster” are not “the right thing to do” — they’re abuse of the trademark process. Public opinion was right: Monster Cable was being a bully, and it only backed down because public opinion made that clear. It’s pretty weak in an apology for Monster Cable to act magnanimous for doing what the company should have done in the first place (i.e., leave Monster Mini Golf alone).
As for “the letter of the law” that only requires Monster Cable to police the use of its trademark in cases where there’s likely to be confusion or dilution in its areas of business. There is simply no way that any reasonable person (let alone the moron in a hurry who has shown up at various trademark lawsuits) would confuse Monster Cable with Monster Mini Golf — and thus the law does not require that Monster Cable stop others from using the word in those cases. While it’s nice that Monster Cable has finally come to its senses, the real question is how it acts the next time this happens — and given Monster Cable’s history, it’s likely to happen again soon.