March 05, 2015

Some Pig

Wilbur is not the only one with a claim to fame in the world of pork. The entire industry benefits from a mark found to be famous, a status accorded to only a very select few marks.

In 1985, Congress passed an act that created the National Pork Board. This act, intended to foster the promotion, research, and dissemination of consumer information about pork, became known as the Pork Act. (This apparently happened long before it became popular for senators and representatives to sign anti-pork pledges.) Under the Pork Act, the Board directs the spending of taxes paid by pork producers and importers to strengthen the position of the pork industry and develop markets for pork products. You are likely familiar with one of the tag lines the Board uses to promote the consumption of pork: THE OTHER WHITE MEAT.

Registered in 1988, this tagline has garnered significant public recognition. In 2000, a Northwestern University study determined that it was the fifth most recognized ad slogan among American adults. This achievement did not come easily. The Board spent millions of dollars in advertising over many years and worked hard to protect its trademark rights zealously. Often these efforts yield results that increase a mark's goodwill among consumers. In fact, pork consumption increased in the years following adoption and use of THE OTHER WHITE MEAT. Sometimes the trademark protection efforts spark a little public amusement. This happened about five years ago, when the Board sent a cease and desist letter to Think Geek, Inc. (online purveyor of witty novelty items), protesting the latter's use of the slogan "The new white meat" in connection with (ostensibly) canned unicorn meat available for sale on its site for a single dayâ¦. April 1.

Unicorn Meat

However, a few weeks later, the Board's trademark protection efforts bore fruit when the fame of its mark was recognized in a decision from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the other board). Years before, a lobster and seafood company had attempted to register the tag line "The other red meat." Did the Board stand idly by and let this happen? When pigs fly! The Board promptly (and successfully) opposed registration of the mark on the grounds of dilution. To succeed in proving dilution, the Board had to prove that the mark was famous (widely recognized by the general consuming public of the U.S.) under the Lanham Act, the federal trademark statute. It was able to prove this through evidence, including the Northwestern University study referenced above, tracking surveys of consumer recognition it had conducted routinely, and an expert survey conducted during the litigation. Only a select few marks achieve this level of strength and are afforded broader protection than ordinary marks, so this is a significant achievement. No swine flew that day!

While THE OTHER WHITE MEAT remains in use, almost exactly four years ago, the Board decided to phase in a new slogan to promote pork: BE INSPIRED. So, "move over, bacon!" and make room for the new tag line. It will be difficult for this new slogan to achieve the recognition of THE OTHER WHITE MEAT. Some tag lines are more equal than others, but time will tell. In the meantime, we are all free to enjoy pork, in barbecued or other form.

Since it's Thursday, here's a #tbt to a 1992 commercial for America's Pork Producers:

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