trademark drama

I’ve been in California for the last 10 days… and I’m behind, behind on so many things. Apparently Canada is having an election. :/ The Royal Wedding is this week… :/ The Canucks have been struggling… and are down to game seven this week… :/ Oh and my friend Dan is being threatened with legal action.

Often rage motivates my blogging and tonight it one of those times.

Through the wonderful world of Twitter, I have had the opportunity to become friends with a lovely young man named Dan Clapson. Dan is the General Manager of a local independent (and amazing) coffee shop, a Freelance Writer for Canada’s Food Network, and a do-gooder in the Calgary community.

In November 2010, Dan established Kick The KD; formal launch took place in February 2011.

What is Kick The KD?

Kick The KD is a pilot cooking program in association with the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union. Kick The KD is aimed at local students who are interested in expanding their culinary horizons. We understand that ‘quick and easy’ food is a perfect fit for the busy student life, but not everything that’s simple has to come out of a box or take-out container.
Dan called out to the student community to apply to be part of the program. Students were required to be interested in learning more about cooking, available over the 10 weeks to follow and have access to a kitchen – oh and they needed to be able to laugh and have a good time!

On April 18, 2011, Dan Clapson received a letter from Kraft Canada indicating that he was using Kraft Dinner’s trademark and that it was to be removed from the program and all marketing materials by May 2, 2011.

In the days that followed, he appearned on CBC’s The Eyeopener and the story went public across Canaada.  On April 20, Dan blogged about the legal situation and next steps. He posted a formal press release and that he would take the required steps in changing the name of the program by Kraft Canada’s required date.

A few of the blog comments that I loved:

“It has often been referred to as Yellow Death..YD…not sure how popular this class would be. But hey, I still eat this stuff.” – Lib, April 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm [Kick the YD… love it!!]

“1. Kick the “Suing Me Because They Are A Multi-Billion Dollar Corporation That Makes Severely Unhealthy Macaroni and Cheese” Dinners Class aka KSMBTAAMDCTMSUMCDC (trademark the initials so you can sue if someone uses it). 2. Taking Angie’s suggestion a little further: Kick Kraft Krap aka KKK (although now you might be sued by another less reputable organization).” – Retrodivot, April 21, 2011 at 10:04 am [Ha ha…]

In my opinion, there are two issues at hand trademark law and education on healthy eating.

Trademark

Kraft has trademarked KD and Kraft Dinner. Alright fine. They win. Hooray! :/

Over the last few months, I have seen similar situations happen with a few companies. Whether a startup organization or a small non-profit, you think of an idea, you google it, and you generally put it into action. You snatch up domains, social media handles, and build your brand… rarely, you trademark. Why? A whole lot of hassle and money.

If Dan had known that the “KD” of Kick The KD was trademarked, I doubt he would have gone with the name. The look though… likely. The similar font though… maybe. Does Kraft really own macaroni noodles painted orange? Gawd, I hope not.

How do we ensure that small businesses don’t get assaulted with trademark law going forward? Education first and foremost. Education on the how to’s of trademarks and copyrights, when to take a risk and not trademark, and how to rebrand [and next steps] if/when the multi-million dollar company mails a registered letter.

But what else? I honestly don’t know.

How can you protect a brand while still having a heart?

By the way… Canada’s trademark database can be found here.

Healthy Eating Education

Forget about the actual name of the program… Dan Clapson and his 15 students are doing good in the community. They are attempting to change the way university students eat and incorporate healthy food into their lifestyle.

Whether Kraft Canada would like to admit it or not, the decision they made this past week was negative PR. Was forcing a name change the right thing to do? No. Should they have handled the situation delicately? Likely.

Kick The KD is a community initiative.

Kick The KD is creating waves in Calgary’s foodie industry similar to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in the US. Not surprisingly, Jamie’s program has been hugely controversial. Is that a good thing? Absolutely. The US needs to get a handle on their obesity rates and portion control.

To quote Jamie Oliver:

“This Food Revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way people eat. It’s not just a TV show; it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future, take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking, and find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better, it will also add years to your life.”

Kraft Canada could have asked to be included in Dan’s program. They could have sponsored or supported it in some way shape or form. Why didn’t they? Kraft Canada is in business for the dollars, not for do gooding in the community, nor for supporting healthy eating. If Kraft had got involved with the program, they would have to wholeheartedly admit that their product was crap.

Tonight I looked up the brands under Kraft Foods and the countries they distribute to… 151 to be exact. All I can say is whoa.  Highlights… Cheezwhiz, Cool Whip, Kool-Aid, Kraft Dinner, Lunchables, and Velveeta. The closest thing I could find to healthy is Cracker Barrel cheese.

Way of the future? Likely… unless we start doing something about it. Start talking, learning, and challenging society’s norms.

Pay attention to what you put in your body.

Don’t get all neurotic over diet and weight, just pay attention.

Feed your body the nutrients it deserves.

It’s truly your powerhouse.

Kick The KD [rebranded to a new name May 2011 ;)]… will be offered at both The University of Calgary and Mount Royal University in Fall 2011.

Kudos to the Calgary Co-op, SteamWhistle Brewery, Yelp.ca and the universities involved for supporting this program!

Supplementary articles on the trials & tribulations of Kick the KD can be found here: CBC, The Consumerist, and The Globe & Mail.

Thoughts or comments? Email Dan at kickthekd@dansgoodside.com or post your love below.

0 Comments

  1. Greg Bennett April 27, 2011

    I not sure why they (KD) didn’t realize the huge potential their reaction has for bad or good press. Bad press = send out a flailing lawsuit and alienate their next generation of KD eaters (or not, college students will probably always eat it and it will still be the butt of jokes) OR Good press = Sponsor the program, gaining good WOM and use that to absorb the negative connotations of the product. Like I said, either way, people will probably still eat it. You get the added benefits in in the second scenario.

    Reply
  2. Kim April 28, 2011

    Wow… Thanks for sharing what’s going on with your friend.

    Reply

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