An interesting trend is emerging among trademark attorneys across the nation. They have allowed themselves to be funny. Three recent examples have gone viral.
The first was a witty letter from Netflix to a Stranger Things-themed Chicago bar. Instead of boilerplate and aggressive language, Netflix's attorney turned to humor. The letter was wildly popular and served the goal of not only attempting to deter the specific instance, but also functioned as a public service announcement that Netflix has certain trademark rights, and that they actively monitor and enforce those rights. The letter also doubled as a marketing campaign. After it went viral, anyone who wished to understand the jokes would have to watch the show. It also paints the company in a positive light, the kind of place you want to work for and the type of company you want to support.
Shortly after Netflix, and perhaps inspired by them, Bud Light chose to use humor to protect the now-ubiquitous phrase "Dilly Dilly" instead of escorting an infringer straight to the pit of misery. The video of a medieval crier reading the letter from the "king" had the effect of serving the legal aim, and provided an additional (free) round of marketing and generation of good will. In fact, it was the infringer, Modist Brewing Company, who shared the video and created the positive press for Bud Light. To date, the video has been seen by over 350,000 people.
Humor can also be valuable in educating the public, such as VELCRO® Brand's recent over the top "Don't Say Velcro" video to combat genericide. Whether the company actually wins this fight remains to be seen, but surely the video is more effective than some black-and-white advertisement in the local paper.
Humor is a powerful tool that is often forgotten in the legal profession. It can and should be used, when appropriate, to not only achieve the intended legal outcomes, but also successfully market the client and build up goodwill.