Cheeky, Possibly Illegal Microsoft Memorabilia Trolls Google Over Data Theft
November 20, 2013 6:55 PM
comment(s) - last by
Products use trademarked Google logos without permission
Microsoft Corp.'s (
-- a series of sarcastic ads
masterminded by Mark Penn
, best-known as a campaign strategist for Bill and Hillary Clinton's respective Presidential runs -- was greeted with mixed reactions. Some of the ads, which attacked
Microsoft's search arch-rival Google
) -- bordered on being mildly humorous. Others fell flat.
In the end Microsoft seemed to be
letting the campaign quietly die down
-- or so it seemed.
But while the broadcast ads tapered off, Microsoft has taken the campaign to the web. Its latest attack -- which is featured on
mugs, t-shirts, and other memorabilia
available from the Microsoft store carrying various anti-Google slogans, including the familiar "Scroogled" parody of Google's colorful log.
Perhaps most eye-catching, though, is a fresh attack proclaiming:
Keep calm while we steal your data.
The quote on that hot cup of sass alludes to the internet company's
snooping on citizens' open Wi-Fi networks via its StreetView cars
. Google claimed the data collection was "accidental" despite internal emails clearly stating that it was an attempt to collect informations on users to improve marketing.
So far Google has already been slapped with at least three fines internationally as officials declined to buy Google's excuses about "accidents". Most recently Google was ordered to pay a
$17M USD fine to U.S. federal regulators
. It paid a separate
$7M USD settlement to U.S. state regulators
$189,000 USD settlement to regulators in Germany
. Google faces similar or potentially
even bigger fines in other European Union member nations
Google claimed it snooped on users on "accident" despite internal emails revealing it did so for profit. The company has been fined multiple times for the spying. [Image Source: Jacopast/Wikipedia]
In addition to mugs, the material is also printed on pre-washed T-shirts made from socially conscious fabrics. The shirts are the work of American Apparel, Inc. (
), the "fair-trade" espousing brand beloved by hipsters across the country.
The quote is surprisingly edgy and internet culture aware, as it seemingly hops on board the popular "
Keep calm and carry on
" meme, which was originally based on a humorous World War II propoganda poster from the UK.
It's also somewhat surprising as the memorabilia uses Google's trademarked Chrome logo with no indication that Google permitted Microsoft to use it, or even an acknowledgement that Google is the logo's owner via
a trademark or copyright symbol
(trademarks are generally more appropriate, although often a broad set of design features is copyrighted or even patented).
Google in fact appears to explicitly ban this,
Don't display a Google Brand Feature in a manner that is in Google's sole opinion misleading, unfair, defamatory, infringing, libelous, disparaging, obscene or otherwise objectionable to Google.
Further common sense tells you that appropriating a company's well-known logo for use in selling your products is probably intellectual property theft. And insulting the owner while using their logo to sell your products -- that's just adding insult to injury.
A Microsoft product description states:
A vintage line, reworked to reflect a modern problem. Printed on an American Apparel 50/50 t-shirt, pre-washed for minimal shrinkage.
Breathe in, breathe out. It won’t be long before Google has attempted to make money off of every aspect of your digital life. This t-shirt lets them know that you know. It's 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend, and pre-laundered for minimal shrinkage.
Again, there's no sign of any trademarks/etc. on the store page.
Edgy? Trendy? Illegal? IP theft? Funny? It appears Microsoft's new campaign may be all the above. It wouldn't be surprising to see this one wind up in court... but Google faces a lose-lose scenario as if it does sue Microsoft it's bringing attention to its own privacy offenses and risks looking losing its "cool cred" by appearing litigious.
After his largely failed prior attempts, it appears Mike Penn has finally crafted a scenario in which Google just can't win. His new product line marks a significant improvement in Microsoft's efforts to troll Google, practically begging them in a legal sense -- "Come at me, bro."
It should be interesting to see if Google responds.
Google Logo/Trademark Policy
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: And we Thought
11/21/2013 1:23:15 PM
It is describing the other product as stealing information.The criticism is explicit. Case law is fairly robust in this area. Remember the purpose of trademark law is pretty simple: To avoid consumer confusion. No reasonable person is going to believe that the tshirt or mug are Google products, there is no trademark dilution.
Google would be far more likely to sue if the underlying message of these items were untruthful. Case law does not protect nomative use when the message if fundamentally unthruthful.
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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