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False Advertising


For parody cases, a BALANCING test that is more useful than the Polaroid test was established by Cliffs Notes v. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 886 F.2d 490 (2nd Cir. 1989). The court held that Bantam's production of Spy Notes, which was a parody of Cliffs Notes study guides, was not a violation of the Lanham Act because Bantam clearly conveyed in advertising that Spy Notes was a parody. Therefore, there was no confusion. As a result, the balancing test used by the court in Cliffs Notes requires that "a parody must convey two simultaneous—and contradictory—messages: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original and is instead a parody." If a parody does not have both messages, it is likely to confuse the consumers.

Another claim involving parody is the 1995 case of Hormel Foods Corp. v. Jim Henson Productions, 73 F.3d 497 (2nd Cir. 1996). In this case, Hormel brought Jim Henson Productions to court for trademark infringement and false advertising under the Lanham Act. At the time the case was initiated, Henson was producing the movie Muppet Treasure Island with a new character: an exotic wild boar named Spa'am. Henson's intention was to make the audience laugh at the intended parody between the Muppet's wild boar and Hormel's tame luncheon meat.

Hormel's claims of false advertising and trademark infringement under the Lanham Act and its common-law claims of trademark dilution and deceptive practices were all denied by the court for several reasons, the main one being that Henson had clearly, in all his advertising, identified Spa'am as a character from a Muppet motion picture. This usage was not confusing under the Polaroid test and therefore was not a solid basis for a false advertising or trademark infringement claim. Henson's usage also satisfied the balancing test requirements set up by Cliffs Notes.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Ex proprio motu (ex mero motu) to FileFalse Advertising - Proof Requirement, Development Of Regulations, Types Of False Advertising, Trademark Infringement, Parody, Remedies For False Advertising