What is a trademark for if not to protect the right to ownership? The band OK Go learned quickly that some people think the rules do not apply to them. They responded by taking the issue to the internet and their fans.
A David vs. Goliath Story Based on Trademark Law
In 2011, Indie rock band OK Go created a series of promotional videos for Post Foods’ A Honey Bunches of Oats breakfast cereal. Eleven years later, in September of 2022, OK Go’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to the multi-billion dollar company over the distribution of a new portable product called “OK Go!” The difference between the branding name and the band name is subtle, making it obvious why the band members might jump to the conclusion that the company abused its namesake for promotional reasons.
Post Responds With a Lawsuit
After nothing more than a cease-and-desist, Post Foods chose to file a lawsuit against the band, requesting legal protection to continue using “Ok Go!” and asking for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees. Post’s claim is that the band threatened them with litigation, leading them to take precautionary action and file a lawsuit first.
According to a report from Page Six, OK Go’s attorney insisted that the band’s collaborative efforts with several products over the years are enough evidence to support their claim that the public will assume OK Go endorses Post’s new on-the-go cereal.
OK Go Speaks Out
The band posted their response to the lawsuit to their Instagram page on January 31, where over 144,000 followers learned about the incident. In their own words, the band says they applied for a trademark for OK Go to make the name they’ve used for over 25 years officially their own.
Then, they sent a letter to Post Foods, asking them to use a different name for their product. Finally, the band says the cereal company responded by suing them in federal court. Additionally, they pointed out the subtle use of “ready to rock” in the product description for one of the OK Go! products.
Post claims they offered the band a payment in good faith for allowing them to continue using the name, but the band rejected the offer. A lawyer for the cereal company also said that the 2011 collaboration was long forgotten, and the limited views on the YouTube videos for the campaign indicate that the public would not immediately associate the band with the product.
It appears the public sided with David over Goliath. Fans responded to the band’s Instagram post asking what they could do to help, and the band’s singer and guitarist, Damian Kulash, responded with requests to get the word out so the company would recognize the human impact of their actions. The band They Might Be Giants also spoke up on behalf of the band and shamed the cereal company for bullying their friends, OK Go, in what they deemed a creepy act.
OK Go has faith that the law and the public are on their side. Time will tell what the judge thinks.