Joff Wild

A cease and desist letter written by Christy Susman, a senior attorney in the trademarks department at Jack Daniel’s, is currently being heavily referenced in blogs and on Tweets. Sent to author Patrick Wensink, the letter points out that the front cover of his book Broken Piano for President “bears a design that closely mimics the style and distinctive elements of the JACK DANIEL’s trademarks”. What the letter then goes on to say is as far removed from the standard, template cease and desist letter as you’ll ever hope to find. You can read it here.

What has resulted is a minor internet sensation, with universal praise for Susman’s approach. Headlines such as “This Cease-and-Desist Letter Should Be the Model for Every Cease-and-Desist Letter”, “Jack Daniels Wrote What Has To Be The Nicest Cease-And-Desist Order Of All Time” and “Jack Daniels Shows How To Write a Cease and Desist Letter” pretty much capture the spirit of the coverage the letter has received.

By not churning out the standard cease and desist letter cobbled together from a template, and instead taking just a little time to personalise the communication and to look for a positive solution to the problem, the JD trademark team has done three very important things:

• First of all they have got what they want with a minimum of fuss. The second edition of the book will be redesigned.

• Second of all, they have succeeded in getting the Jack Daniels approach to its trademarks widely circulated.

• Third, they have done no harm at all to wider perceptions of the Jack Daniels brand.

Now if that is not delivering real value to the company that employs you I do not know what is. Of course, not every kindly cease and desist letter is going to go viral. But the fact that this one did probably indicates how few of them are sent out in the first place. And that is a shame. For the sake of just a little bit of time and effort Jack Daniels as a business has been very well served. There has to be a wider lesson in there somewhere at a time when in so many places and in so many ways IP is not exactly the flavour of the month.

UPDATE - World Trademark Review, IAM's sister publicaiton, has a fascinating exclusive interview with Jack Daniels' head of trademarks David Gooder in which he talks about the letter and the company's approach to trademark proteciton generally. I liked this bit particularly because it is so right: “The voice of any given brand should be its voice regardless of whether it is an advertising campaign on Facebook or a protest letter written to stop something that is harmful to the brand ... We may be a bit old-school about this, but we hold the view that you shouldn't put something in writing you don't want on the front page of the newspaper. In today's world, the newspaper has become the internet – but the philosophy remains the same.”