TupperWars - Revenge of the Courts

This has made Tupperware unhappy, as they allege that this information is false & libel, and have sued to shut down the site…As a trademark attorney, let me just say this is silly… Suing them just makes their message more widespread and brings more attention to the problem.

www.trademarks.smiglaw.com/blog
September 30, 2004

TupperWars- Revenge of the Courts
Owen Smigelski

Tupperware%20franchising.jpg

OK, the title might annoy Tupperware, but I just cannot resist a catchy media label.

According to the Globe and Mail, some former Tupperware salespeople in Canada have been posting info about Tupperware through the website of the Canadian Alliance of Franchise Operators. This has made Tupperware unhappy, as they allege that this information is false & libel, and have sued to shut down the site (and get hundreds of thousands of dollars from some former salespeople). Tupperware claims trademark infringement & dilution, and that the false information has hurt Tupperware in Canada.

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Let me say first that I'm not a Canadian attorney, and I cannot comment on Canadian law. As a trademark attorney, let me just say this is silly. I understand what are legitimate trademark infringement actions:

1- Someone is putting your mark on their goods
2- Someone is using your name to sell someone else's goods
3- Someone is using a mark so close to your mark that people are buying their goods thinking it is your goods

As near as I can tell, the website was mentioning how Tupperware was going to get rid of their sales force in Canada. The info is gone from the CAFO website, so I cannot verify the truth of the information in there. Unless they're making stuff up (e.g. Tupperware funds Al Qaeda- which is NOT true), then why go after them? In the US, truth is a defense to libel/slander, so all Tupperware has to do is show that they are wrong, and they win. Suing them just makes their message more widespread and brings more attention to the problem. There are a lot of *sucks.com websites out there. Nextel is probably embarrassed they went after NextelSucks.org, as Nextel has lost, and brought more attention to a really minor matter.

If companies want to go after all rumors including their trademarks, they'll have their work cut out for them. Many news outlets report rumors including trademarks all the time, and at times they are not nice and are sometimes wrong. Also, there are sites like this one that have lots of fun info.

Ignore it, defend in the court of public opinion, build positive brand identity, and move on. You'll save yourself a lot of money and embarrassment.


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