I just saw this local news segment about a trademark scuffle between two Maryland adolescents and the California Milk Processor Board.
Two Potomac, Maryland boys are working on a science project developing a testing strip to identify sour milk. As part of the science project, the boys began the website gotsourmilk.com. The website name yielded a cease and desist letter from the California Milk Processor Board which owns the trademarked phrase “got milk?”
I wasn’t able to find a copy of the Board’s letter. According to the news report, the Board threatened a lawsuit if the name was not changed. The boys have changed the name to whybeasourpuss.com
Should the Board Have Objected to the www.gotsourmilk.com Website?
Absolutely, yes. The website name is potentially infringing on the “got milk?” trademark. If trademark owners don’t object to infringing uses, they risk diminishing or even losing the value of the trademark. However, there are adept and inept ways for a trademark owner to approach someone misusing its mark.
Cease and desist letters that are not well-thought-out can produce public relations backlash. While the Board’s approach was not as bad as the cease and desist letter I discuss here, the Board could have handled the situation by offering some trademark education to this family rather than by threatening a lawsuit. Although the Board obtained the result it wanted – the boys have changed the website name – the California Milk Processor Board certainly does come off as the bad guy in the news coverage.