From decease to de-cheese: Foamation takes on the Grim Reaper

The IPKat is fond of mice-- and almost as fond of their reputedly favourite food, cheese. For this reason he read with great interest the news of a cheese-related dispute which reached him from the United States of America, where they really know how to do things with a touch of drama.

Wisconsin is apparently a State of the Union which is celebrated for its production of cheese. A local Wisconsin NFL football team, the Green Bay Packers, is supported by followers whose badge of loyalty is the foam cheesehead (this being a hat which is shaped like a wedge of cheese). Indeed, apparently quite unmindful of what they look like, Packers fans wear their cheeseheads at football games (an example is shown on the right). The hats are produced by Foamation, Inc., which is also the proprietor of several trade mark registrations for the iconic titfer.  Foamation takes the protection of its trade marks very seriously, by all accounts, even taking the dramatic step of facing Death when the latter chose to deploy a cheesehead in a billboard warning against the health effects of eating too much cheese (see illustration below, right).

What on earth is all this about, the Kat hears his readers muttering. Let him explain further.  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,  Washington, made the ill-advised decision this past summer to try and deter Wisconsinites from eating cheese. Their method of choice was to rent a number of billboards featuring Death -- wearing a cheesehead and warning that “Cheese Can Sack Your Heatlh. Fat Cholesterol. Sodium” [you can read all about this billboard campaign from the PCRM itself, via its website here]. This message was not popular with local cheese eaters. It was even less popular with Foamation, alarmed over the integrity of its trade marks.

After Foamation threatened legal action the two sides met in an attempt to resolve their differences and the PCRM backed down, agreeing to de-cheese the Grim Reaper while defiantly leaving Death in situ, together with his anti-cheese message (see illustration, right). The Kat, as ever, wonders how this little dispute might have been resolved in the European Union, where both the parameters of disparagement and the safeguards of freedom of expression in the public interest are far from firmly defined.  Merpel, who doesn't like cheese at all, says disputes like this leave a bad taste in the mouth ...

History of Wisconsin cheeses here
Wisconsin cheese variety guide here
Fatal cheeses here and here
Cheese as an aphrodisiac here

Source: "Cheesehead Trademark beats death", email circular from David Christopher Baker, Esq (Hart, King & Coldren, Santa Ana, California). Nice one, David!
From decease to de-cheese: Foamation takes on the Grim Reaper From decease to de-cheese: Foamation takes on the Grim Reaper Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, October 04, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. We eat lots of corn in Minnesota so I don't think we will be seeing any Kernal Death billboards. High-Fructose Corn Syrup may be another matter, as it is purported to confuse one's mind relative to caloric intake. There are many, many Minnesotans who dearly love their calories.

  2. One should add that the "Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine" is not in fact a scientific body, but a single-issue animal liberationist pressure group that is very cagey on how many of its members are recognised "physicians".

  3. IPKat, I really can't feel any sympathy for the PCRM with regards to them having received this legal threat. Google "PCRM legislative fund" to see for yourself the kind of legal bullying the PCRM have been up to. Last summer, a PCRM-associated advertiser by the name of Mariana Tosca threatened to sue a European blogger for having the nerve to criticize the PCRM's previous campaign, their obnoxious "zero to vegan" billboard, while exposing the PCRM's and their advertiser's association to a crackpot vegan cult leader (seeing is believing, so just Google "PCRM, Ching Hai)". The bullying got so out of hand that the blogger ended up reporting the advertiser and her lawyer to the police for attempted blackmail. That's the type of crowd you are dealing with here: animal rights extremists trying to go mainstream and reinvent themselves as pseudo-physicians and "political advertisers". They might bring a Saatchi-esque edge to their advertisements (and certainly a lot of people believe that any publicity is good publicity), but will inevitably resort to exactly the kind of coercive extremism that this kind of ALF type crowd is long known for.

  4. Foamation is not just standing up for its trademark rights here; it is standing up for the state of Wisconsin. We do not take it lightly when people attack our cheese. (See also California Happy Cows commercials.)


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