Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday's Rant: Target's misguided lawsuit

Today’s rant is gleaned from this article from CNN about transforming trash into fashion treasures. Overall, this is an innovative – and eco-friendly – idea. Unfortunately, Target didn’t see it that way when the company Tinbuk2 used a recycled Target bag on one of their totes. Target sent Timbuk2 a “cease and desist” letter last September when they discovered that some of their Lamitron bags contained the Target’s bull's-eye design.

"We encourage and promote recycling efforts, including ones that use our recycled bags," said Target in a written statement to CNN. "However, in this particular case we believed that the prominent use of our bull's-eye design mark implied a sponsorship or affiliation with Timbuk2 that did not exist at that time." Target said Timbuk2 has cooperated.

So Timbuk2 scrambled to identify and remove the offending bags from its limited collection of prototypes. Perry Klebahn, Timbuk2's CEO, acknowledges that Target wasn't technically wrong. "The onus was on us to talk to Target and get them to say OK, in this particular case, to grant us a license. If we really are going to make use of this, we should be responsible as the manufacturer."

But I say, shame on Target in this case. Sure, it’s a company’s responsibility (and right) to protect it’s logomark in order to not dilute their brand. But when a company is using it in such an honorable and ecologically sound way, they could certainly bend the rules, or at least be flexible. This is not the first time I’ve heard of Target taking extreme measures (like litigation) to protect their brand integrity. However, in my opinion, Target is taking itself a little too seriously here. C’mon, Bullseye... lighten up a bit!

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