Book cover subject of 'world's most polite cease and desist letter'
26th July 2012
Author Patrick Wensink has received what he believes is the world's most polite cease and desist letter from Jack Daniel's, after his latest novel was published with a cover suspiciously similar to the label of the whisky maker.
The cover of Wensink's new book Broken Piano for President is stylised with white writing on a black background and features the same elaborate borders and central emblem as a Jack Daniel's label, down to the '40% ALC. BY VOL' standard, though '80 PROOF' is replaced with 'A NOVEL'.
The author's name and book title also replace the traditional Jack Daniel's logo and content information, in what Wensink believed was an effective parody of the label, before the possible legal ramifications were brought to his attention.
A caution was sent by lawyers representing the Tennessee-based distillery to Wensink, who resides just a couple of miles away from the manufacturer's Lynchburg headquarters in Louisville.
However, rather than adopting a hard-nosed approach, the correspondence was - in the author's opinion - 'the world's most polite cease and desist letter'.
It begins by thanking Wensink for bringing attention to the brand and acknowledging his affection for the tipple, before highlighting that the company's intellectual property had, in this case, been infringed.
The letter continues: 'Because you are a Louisville neighbour and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is reprinted.
'If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including on the digital version) we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount towards the cost of doing so.'
Wensink said he was taken aback by the 'warm and kind' tone of the letter and revealed he will be changing the cover of future editions of the book - but will not take up the company's offer of paying for the costs associated with doing so.
'We thought this was a parody of their logo and never realised that it was copyright infringement and never intended for something like this to happen,' the author explained.
'We wrote back and said we would absolutely change the cover and told them please not to bother giving us any money.'
David Gooder, chief trademark counsel at Jack Daniel's Properties Inc, said a gentler approach is often favoured in such circumstances as 'there is no point using a sledgehammer to crack a nut'.