Perhaps Not So Evil Monster (Formerly: Evil Monster)

In my last post I issued a tepid condemnation of Monster Cables’ litigation practices. This evening I followed a link in the show notes for Dave Hitt’s podcast to get a sense of how much Monster Cables seems to be focused on trademark litigation. The link he gave didn’t seem to work beyond page 1, so here’s a slightly different link to a list from the US Patents and Trademarks Office of trademark disputes in which Monster Cables is usually the plaintiff. As it says on the top of the page, when I conducted a search with ‘Monster Cables’ as the ‘Party’, ‘Number of results: 100+’.

Amongst the products and uses Monster Cables has sued over: Monster Boys Club, Monster Fleece, Monster Wheelbarrow (these three from page 10), Monster Energy (from a beverage company, so I guess we’re talking a drink, p.11), the Discovery Channel TV show ‘Monster Garage‘ (p.12), the PS2 game ‘War of the Monsters‘, and even a Scooby-Doo cartoon that dared to have ‘Monster’ in its title  (both p.16).

I’ve got to say, all this stuff makes me want to tell anyone interested in high-end cables that, even if they believe that they offer some benefit, they should choose a brand that doesn’t sue TV shows for using a common word.

I shall draw these two posts to the attention of the Australian distributor for Monster Cables — a company, incidentally, that distributes some truly fine audio equipment — and post what response it may have.

Update (12:24pm):

Thanks to my brother, I now have more info, and have accordingly changed the title to this post. On the evidence, it seems that Monster Cable seems for the most part to be vigorously engaging in rather distasteful corporate activity, rather than being the spawn of the devil. And if you can believe the company’s main man, it is required to do this because of various government rules.

His response to earlier accusations is here. I delved a little further into the US Patents and Trademarks Office’s database, specifically, the Scooby-Doo dispute. In that one it turns out that the Scooby-Doo makers were trying to have the title to their video release granted trademark status. Monster apparently opposed this, and the Office finally rejected the claim (technically, Hanna-Barbera Productions ‘voluntarily’ abandoned the claim after being told by the office that it wouldn’t get the trademark). Sensibly, the law does not permit a trademark to be granted to a single work.

Nonetheless, there does seem to be quite a bit of overreach. See, for example, this response by Blue Jeans Cables to a cease-and-desist from Monster Cables.

Update 2 (2:30pm):

An interesting post here — unverified, so take with a grain of salt, although it conforms to my own biases — indicating that listeners could not hear any difference between Monster speaker cables and straightened and soldered wire coathangers (go to the last big paragraph).

A better way into the Blue Jeans Cable response to Monster’s Cease and Desist and cough up money letter is via Blue Jeans’ own website, because there you can also see Monster’s original demand.

Having a little look around its website, Blue Jeans Cable seems to be a rather good business. It sells cables, of course, but at prices that seem quite reasonable. It also seems pretty knowledgeable, with a bunch of informative and accessible articles on cable issues. It seems to completely avoid any form of mysticism in its descriptions and discussions.

Finally, as far as I could find, there appears to have been no response to Blue Jeans Cable’s forthright rejection — over two years ago — to Monster Cables’ claims. That would raise the suspicion that Monster Cables knew its claims to be without merit at the time of sending the letter. If so, that would tend to nudge the company, in my view, a little closer to the ‘evil’ end of the continuum.

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8 Responses to Perhaps Not So Evil Monster (Formerly: Evil Monster)

  1. Mark says:

    I wonder how the legal system works in the USA. I cannot help thinking that if the plantiff fails in such cases and were made to pay all court costs and compensate the defendant then companies might think twice before taking out frivolous legal action.

    Then again it might be interesting to see how Monster Cables would react if some company formed in the 1960s using the word Monster in their name sued Monster Cables.

  2. Stephen Dawson says:

    The general ‘loser pays’ basis of civil law in Australia helps reduce much of the litigation.

    Having said that, a company with large pockets can virtually bankrupt a small business or individual, just by dragging out proceedings. The process itself can be far more punishing than the final outcome, if the small respondent can even last that long.

  3. Mark says:

    That is what the BCA was expecting to happen when they sued Simon Singh. They didn’t expect his paper & the skeptical community to back him let alone Simon actually winning the case.

  4. Stephen Dawson says:

    Singh didn’t formally win. What he won was an interpretation of his statement that the British Chiropractic Association ‘happily promotes bogus treatments’ as fair comment, which made it defensible, rather than fact, which would have made defense almost impossible. The BCA then dropped the case, probably because they expected that they would lose, and probably because the bad publicity was so damaging that they probably would have seized on any opportunity to shut it down.

    Meanwhile, I think I’ve heard Singh estimate that the case had cost him and his supporters somewhere north of a hundred thousand pounds, UK, although he hopes to recover it.

    Had Singh not already been, I imagine, reasonably prosperous (he has had a number of non-fiction best sellers out) and famous, I’m not at all sure that things would have worked out so good.

    I do look forward to a book length treatment of the whole thing. Surely he must be doing one!

  5. adrian says:

    The US is totally litigation crazy. Here’s the case of the pork board vs ThinkGeek:

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/blog/2010/06/officially-our-bestever-cease.html

  6. Stephen Dawson says:

    Adrian, wow. I always get suspicious about cases of extreme idiocy described on Internet sites, so I went looking for a bit of confirmation. Turns out that this one is true. By way of punishment, the law firm involved — a big and well-known one, incidentally — has a paragraph on this incident at the top of its Wikipedia entry.

  7. adrian says:

    Not so sure about the wikipedia entry being “proof” since the cited document refers back to the thinkgeek article itself.

    Although I image a bunch of lawyers would get the thinkgeek page stomped on quick smart if it wasn’t true 🙂

  8. Stephen Dawson says:

    Sorry, I would never mean to imply that Wikipedia was proof of anything at all, in and of itself! It is evidence, though. It seems clear that the law firm exists (the most obvious evidence for a spoof would be a fake law firm — everything else in the ThinkGeek article could be easily made up).

    Since it is a real and prominent law firm, and since the Wikipedia description to the ThinkGeek piece went up several weeks ago (23 June), my guess is that the firm would have responded by now. There have been no attempts as I write to edit out this section.

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