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Droga5, Chobani Sued for Using the Word ‘How’

During last year’s Super Bowl, Droga5 and Chobani told us that “how matters.

How much does how matter? According to inspirational author/business consultant Dov Seidman, it matters quite a lot. Seidman, whose best-selling book bore the title How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything, filed suit against both agency and client yesterday for “trademark and service mark infringement and unfair competition.”

He seems to think they intentionally ripped him off, and he bases his claim on this tweet, posted just before the campaign went live:

You may notice that Seidman’s company LRN retweeted the message before declaring it to be lawsuit-worthy. A little extra explanation after the jump.

“Plaintiffs, whose business is based on promoting ethical corporate behavior, own federal trademark registrations for the word and mark HOW and have also developed common law rights in HOW and other HOW-based marks over a period of years. Plaintiffs’ HOW marks convey a clear and consistent meaning: that how an organization behaves matters.”

Just as Apple recently tried to trademark the word “startup” and Google tried to trademark the word “glass”, so Seidman  and his company claim to own the rights to the word “how”–at least when applied to all things ethical and business-ish. The tagline “It’s not just what you do, but how you do it that matters” does resemble Seidman’s “It’s no longer what you do that matters most but how you do it.”

Seidman claims that he tried to discuss the matter in private but that company reps said any similarity between the messages was “purely coincidental.”

For the record, the winky tweet probably didn’t help matters.

Droga5 didn’t give us a statement, but here’s one from Chobani via MediaPost:

“Mr. Seidman’s allegations are baseless and without merit. Chobani chose ‘How Matters’ as its platform because it represents what Chobani has always stood for, including its use of natural ingredients to make wholesome and nutritious food. Mr. Seidman does not own a trademark registration for ‘How Matters’ and has never used that phrase as a trademark. Numerous other companies use phrases including the word ‘how’ in connection with marketing language and corporate social responsibility phrasing, and Mr. Seidman himself argued to the trademark office that there is no likelihood of confusion in circumstances similar to these. We are confident that our use of ‘How Matters’ does not violate any legal rights of Mr. Seidman, and accurately portrays who we are and what we do.”

Updates as they arrive.

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