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Pork Lawyers Bristle at ThinkGeek's Unicorn Joke

Posted by Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on Jul 6, 2010

Calling Caucasians "the other white meat" is rude, uncouth, and racist. But the real reason you can't use the phrase is that the National Pork Board's lawyers might send you a scary cease and desist letter.

Online "toys for nerds" purveyor ThinkGeek doesn't sell Caucasians, even as April Fool's Day jokes. But they do delight in listing outlandish fake products every April 1. This year, one of them was Unicorn Meat. The product description headline read: "Pâté is passé. Unicorn -- the new white meat."

This line might bring a minor smile to an average American's lips, but it apparently brought a legal snarl to the lips of at least one attorney at Faegre & Benson, the Pork Board's law firm, who fired off a letter "VIA FACSIMILE AND CERTIFIED MAIL" to ThinkGeek. For various legal reasons, ThinkGeek isn't sharing the entire 12 page (!) text of the letter with us, but sources inside the company assure us that it was a typically turgid example of an American lawyer running amok with a word processor.

And, of course, it was about as bogus and unenforceable a cease and desist threat as it is possible to dream up, since it is A) Dealing with a ham-handed parody in a world where parodies are specifically allowed as fair use under any sane interpretation of fair use; B) It's an obviously fake product that isn't competing in any way with actual pork; and C) ThinkGeek is a major purveyor of insanely stupid pork and pork-related products, so you'd think the Pork Board people would be sending them letters telling them to keep up the good work, not to cease and desist.

In any case, ThinkGeek has used this bit of silliness to get mentions at WashingtonPost.com, NewYorkTimes.com, plus a bunch of cooking-related and tech-news websites.

Sadly, the National Pork Board people have come across as idiots in all of this. You think they'd react, if only to say they understand the joke, hah, hah, hah, can we all move on now, OK? We'd like that -- but we've got to admit, the main reason we'd like it is that it would give us an excuse to write this headline:

"National Pork Board Executives' Faces: The Other Red Meat"

About the author

Robin 'Roblimo' Miller is a writer, editor, and online community builder; author of three IT-related books; and a skilled video director, editor, and producer. He's been covering technology, politics, and business since 1985 for assorted print and online publications, and was a Slashdot editor for 10 years under his "Roblimo" nom de net.

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