Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oatmeal vs. Oatmeal: Mushy Trademark Fight Heads to Court

Mmmm . . . Oatmeal
The Oatmeal has been sued again.  This time by Oatmeal Studios.

When I was growing up, oatmeal was that warm, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that my mother served just before I went out on a cold day.  It kept you warm as you walked to school, and kept you from getting hungry on those morning playing in the snow.

No more.

Now its Oatmeal Studios vs. The Oatmeal in a battle over trademarks and marketing of greeting cards.

The Oatmeal, otherwise known as Matthew Inman, is a quirky artist - for some, this generation's Gary Larson.  He rose to some notoriety with a 2011 lawsuit against humor aggregator Funky Junk, whose users posted Inman's cartoons to the Funky Junk website without his permission.

The dispute garnered attention on the internet when Inman ranted against Funky Junk on his blog, then against Funky Junk's lawyer, including a cartoon of the lawyer's mother  "in flagrante delicto" with a Kodiak bear. Threats of defamation suits flew, and the matter eventually was resolved.

With that dispute now behind him, The Oatmeal launched into a venture of greeting cards, teaming up with Papyrus, one of the nation's largest producers of greeting cards.

But alas, there was already an Oatmeal Studios, a small New England company that has been marketing "Spencer gift type" greeting cards for 35 years. 

Oatmeal Studios claims that it markets to the same people that the new Oatmeal by Papyrus will target, and that there is a substantial risk of name confusion and delusion of its intellectual property rights.

The lawsuit was filed in late November in the United States District Court in Massachusetts. 

All in all, it seems a legal mush.  Maybe some brown sugar and cinnamon will make all seem a little more palatable.

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