Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC, owned by the retired boxer, are currentlyover Kobo’s use of the phrase “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” in last month’s NYTimes advert. This was the advert for the new Kobo Touch, and you can probably guess why they used it.
The slogan and Ali’s name was the most prominent wording on the advertising page, and underneath the expression, according to the complaint, the ad read: “Lightweight. Powerful. Intuitive. The new Kobo eReader Touch Edition. Just in time for Father’s Day.”
I said that I think this lawsuit is bogus, and while I’m not a lawyer I can do basic research. The particular way that Kobo used the trademarked phrase does not appear to be covered by any of Muhammad Ali’s trademarks. There are 4 trademarks, not one, and none cover electronics or digital publishing.
Here’s the important point, folks. A trademark doesn’t give you control of all ways a slogan can be used; it only lets you control the slogan in specific circumstances.
For example, Amazon have a trademark on the word Kindle, and that trademark only covers certain uses of the word (digital publishing, gadgetry, etc). Lots of other people also have trademarks on the word Kindle, and each trademark covers a different use.
I looked carefully at the trademarks filed by Muhammad Ali and I do not see that Kobo violated one. The trademarks seem to cover 2 things; the first is motivation speaking and the other is collectibles (pens, clothing, ashtrays, etc). I don’t see any way that the Ali trademarks include using the slogan to promote a gadget.
Of course, what really matters here is what the lawyers can convince the judge.