Litigation For Dummies

Book publisher forces comic to change Edinburgh show name

Comedian Alan Anderson has been forced to change the name of his Edinburgh show after being threatened with legal action by the publishers of the ‘...For Dummies’ books.

The Scottish stand-up wanted to update his 2011 Fringe show Whisky Fir Dummies for this year’s festival – but was warned off by publishers John Wiley & Sons.

The company – which has sold more than 100million copies of their factual books worldwide – claimed Anderson’s show and advertising infringed their trademarks and was likely to generate ‘serious confusion’ among audiences.

In a letter from their head office in Hoboken, New Jersey, the publishers demanded he cease using the title and advertising, destroy any existing adverts or mention of Fir Dummies and vow not to use anything that might be ‘confusingly similar’ to their trademark.

And if he didn’t, the company – which includes Whisky & Spirits For Dummies among its titles – threatened to use ‘all legal remedies’ to protect their intellectual property.

Anderson insisted he had not breached Wiley’s trademarks, as they had not registered in categories that include whisky tasting or stand-up comedy, the two elements of his show.

But he said he complied with their demands and renamed the show Whisky Fir Dafties 2.0, ‘to prevent a lengthy and costly legal battle’.

He said: ‘For decades now small Scottish entrepreneurs and generations old family businesses have been bullied into changing the names of their companies or products by large American corporations.

‘It started with the burger chain McDonald’s and now it’s Wiley’s trying to stop the people of Edinburgh from enjoying the delights of free single malt Scotch whisky. I thought that was the job of Nicola Sturgeon and her minimum pricing for alcohol policy.

‘As for causing confusion or passing off, if you think a large corporation like Wiley’s would put on a whisky tasting show in the basement of an Edinburgh student pub at 9pm during the Fringe then you probably need to read Marketing For Dummies.’

Wiley’s has recently hit the headlines for becoming the first company to seeking a trial against four people who distributed PDF copies of its guides via the Bittorrent peer-to-peer file sharing software. The move came after it filed 15 lawsuits to obtain the identities of about 200 internet users believed to have pirated its titles.

In 1996, McDonald's forced Scotswoman Mary Blair to drop McMunchies as the name of her sandwich shop in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire.

Published: 18 Jun 2012

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