A couple of weeks back, we discussed the story of Caterpillar Inc., famous manufacturers of tractor equipment, deciding to bully Cat & Cloud Coffee, makers of you’ll-never-guess-what, all because the former had long ago trademarked “CAT” as a truncated brand. At issue specifically is Cat & Cloud’s use of the word “cat” on clothing and merchandise it sells, with Caterpillar claiming there is the potential for public confusion with its own clothing and merch lines. This is, of course, plainly ridiculous. There is no overlap in the branding and nobody is going to confuse the tractor folks with the coffee folks.
Others pointed out that there are tons of other companies out there that sell apparel and/or merch while holding trademarks that incorporate the word “cat.” If those other companies are allowed to exist, why not Cat & Cloud? Caterpillar Inc. heard you dear friends, but its response is probably not the one you were hoping for.
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Cat & Cloud is among 174 registered trademarks including the word “cat”. Caterpillar has filed 125 cancellation petitions so far including one to internet sensation Keyboard Cat. You may have been one of the 150-million viewers of the viral video of a feline, clad in a blue shirt, playing the piano.
Charlie Schmidt, Creator of Keyboard Cat and www.keyboardcat.com spoke to us about his ordeal.
“I’m just a poor artist trying to you know, maintain my integrity! Who wants to hurt a tractor company just by having a cat!?”
So, yeah, Caterpillar has expanded its trademark bullying out to encompass more small businesses. It is again defending its actions by saying they are only targeted for apparel trademarks, but that still isn’t good enough. It’s virtually impossible to believe that all 125 trademarks for the apparel in question comprise uses that would actually cause any real public confusion. Instead, this is obviously a corporate legal team pulling out the legal shotgun and just spraying buckshot everywhere it can.
For Cat & Cloud, at least, its story is getting some public attention.
Customers including tech titan Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist for Apple and current Chief Evangelist for Canva, is getting behind the café, leveraging his millions of online followers to join the effort.
“Sometimes you have to stand up for something. For the principal of it. And this is one of those times.”
Actress Sophia Bush has also weighed in on Instagram to help Cat & Cloud.
Now we just have to marshal forces for the hundred-plus other victims of Caterpillar’s bullying, I suppose.
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