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irregular times logoThe National Pork Board Beats Up On Muskrats

I'm not one of those people who has a knee jerk reaction against lawyers. Many lawyers do important work. The lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights, for example, do good work defending the liberty that, before George W. Bush grabbed the White House, was the foundation of the American identity.

Still, there are some lawyers who take their work to absurd extremes. Jennifer Daniel Collins is one of those lawyers. Earlier today, we got an email from CafePress, relaying a message from Jennifer Daniel Collins, working for the Faegre and Benson law firm, on behalf of their client, the National Pork Board.

It sounds like a joke, but there really is such a thing as the National Pork Board. These are people who spend their entire working lives talking about pig meat. It must be a pretty strange life, but Jennifer Daniel Collins isn't even at the National Pork Board's level of oddity. She's one more step removed, spending her days taking care of the legal tasks of people who spend all day talking about pig meat.

Muskrat the off-white meat bumperstickerWell, the message from Jennifer Daniel Collins was pretty rough. She blasted one of our bumper stickers, seen here: Muskrat: The Off-White Meat.

Jennifer Daniel Collins, on behalf of the National Pork Board, said that our bumper sticker was in violation of the "intellectual property rights" of the National Pork Board. The intellectual property rights that Jennifer Daniel Collins referred to were the trademark rights claimed by the National Pork Board for the phrase "The Other White Meat".

In this case, I think that the term intellectual property rights may not apply, outside of the narrow legalistic sense. It sure wasn't a very intellectual choice for the National Pork Board to come up with the phrase "The Other White Meat". First of all, everyone knows that pork is not really white. It's more pink or peachy. Less literally, pork just doesn't have the clear health benefits of chicken. Claiming that pork is the other white meat is like calling ostrich steak "the other beef". No one buys it.

That's why the phrase "The Other White Meat" began to be mocked almost as soon as it was released. The idea that pork is the other white meat is so ridiculous that it's begging for satire.

The National Pork Board and Jennifer Daniel Collins seem a bit worried about that, so they're going out searching for anyone who satirizes the phrase "The Other White Meat". They're trying to legally intimidate people into stop making fun of their lame attempt at public relations.

Anyone who knows anything about intellectual property rights and trademark law knows that the right of satire is clearly protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution's protection of free speech. Jennifer Daniel Collins ought to know that. She's been to law school, after all. Yet, when the National Pork Board tells Jennifer Daniel Collins to jump, she doesn't call upon her knowledge of the law. She just seems to ask "How high?"

The really pathetic thing is that our bumper sticker doesn't even use the phrase "The Other White Meat". Instead, the bumper sticker calls muskrat the off-white meat. So, on what grounds does the National Pork Board claim that we're violating its intellectual property rights on the trademark "The Other White Meat"? Does the National Pork Board claim that no one else has the right to claim that any other meat other than pork is in any way close to the color white? That would be an odd legal position for Jennifer Daniel Collins to make on behalf of the National Pork Board, given that the phrase "The Other White Meat" is based itself on the fact that chicken is commonly described as white meat.

In a way, I feel sorry for Jennifer Daniel Collins. It can't be easy for her to explain what she does for a living. I don't know if she has children, but if she does, I can't imagine how she describes her job to her kids.

"Mommy, what do you do at work?"

"I protect the National Pork Board from bumper stickers that talk about the color of muskrat meat."

"Uh, Mommy, you don't need to come to Career Day at school, okay?"

Well, we aren't going knuckle under to the National Pork Board. They can take their hog jowls back home, because we're not taking our Muskrat: The Off-White Meat bumper sticker off line. If Jennifer Daniel Collins wants to sue us as result, that's jim dandy. We'd love the publicity, and suspect that the National Pork Board might not fare so well in the court of public opinion.


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