Fibre Fashion reports that South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled last Friday that T-shirt maker Laugh It Off was entitled to use the slogans "Black Labour" and "White Guilt" on politically provocative T-shirts that were a parody of the well known BLACK LABEL trade mark for beer. This use was an exercise of Laugh It Off's freedom of speech and did not constitute a use in a trade mark sense. Nor, ruled Justice Dikgang Moseneke, was there any infringement of copyright when SAB Miller's beer slogan
"America's lusty, lively beer, Carling Black Label beer, enjoyed by men around the world"was replaced by
"Black Labour White Guilt, Africa's lusty lively exploitation since 1652, no regard given worldwide".Laugh It Off are now planning an online auction of about 1,000 Black Labour T-shirts, the proceeds of which will go to an anti-alcohol abuse charity.
The IPKat is pleased with this decision for two reasons. First, it seems correct on the facts. Secondly, it sends out a message to brand owners that infringement litigation is rarely the best way to combat activity of this nature. By suing, SAB Miller has drawn the attention of people all over the world to the offending (and to many, offensive) words, when it could have taken a more positive stance, showing that it can take a joke even if it doesn't find it funny, and letting the whole thing blow discreetly over.
More Black Labels here , here, here and here