“We got a cease-and-desist letter over the title of our album The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Morality,” says Aaron Spaulding of a Conscious Few. “The CD came out last October, and we just got the letter last week.”
The notice from the NYC law firm of von Maltitz, Derenberg, Kunin, Janssen & Giordano says their client, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., “strongly objects to your unauthorized use of its registered trademark The Complete Idiot’s Guide.” Penguin’s book series debuted 15 years ago. Sales averaged around 1.25 million print and ebooks last year.
The letter accuses the CD cover of being “a point-by-point counterfeit of our client’s well-known trademark.…”
“Yeah, [our album] is designed to look like the books,” says Spaulding. “We looked at it as a parody. They didn’t have to come off like bullies, with a big New York law firm. There are maybe 100 to 150 of the CDs out there. It cost us $2500 to press 1000, so we still have boxes of them.”
The band has until July 30 to provide “written assurance that you will promptly cease all use of our client’s trademark and trade dress.”
Though parody has long-established legal protections that tend to trump trademarks, Spaulding says, “We’ll go along. It’s not worth getting sued. We’ll probably take them off CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon and just give them away as promotional items.”
A Conscious Few appears at Canes on August 2. “We’ll have the [Idiot’s Guide] CD there, but maybe we shouldn’t sell them,” says Spaulding. “What if we put out a donation box instead?”