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In late February Playboy magazine announced that it is seeking “coffee-making cuties” for an upcoming issue devoted to the “Women of Starbucks.” When you heard about Playboy‘s quest, some of you probably starting thinking about nubile baristas, but we at Corporate Counsel immediately started musing about fair use. Playboy has spent years zealously guarding its own trademark. Not too long ago Playboy Enterprises, Inc., tried unsuccessfully to stop a former Playmate of the Year, Terri Welles, from advertising her title on her personal Web site. On another occasion the empire of lust attempted to stop search engines from profiting when a searcher typed in words like “playboy” or “playmate.” Apparently, the men’s magazine now sees the value in leveraging popular trademarks. Will Starbucks Corporation feel that way too? Seattle’s most famous liquid export referred questions to Playboy spokesperson Theresa Hennessey, who said the piece will be “within the boundaries of fair use of trademark law.” We needed more insight, so we channeled our own inner Playboy. What might an e-mail exchange on fair use between Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his general counsel look like? We sat down at the computer to find out. Disclaimer: The following e-mails are merely a figment of CC’s imagination. Call it spring fever.
To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: Oh, well Sorry, Hef. The district court said Terri Welles can keep her little Web site. Evidently, the court thinks that the Playmate of the Year honorific “becomes part of who [the bunnies] are.” Time for a new contract rider?! To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: Court jesters Bad news, Hef. Apparently, the fact that Netscape and Excite are selling targeted ads for “playboy” and “playmate” does not infringe upon our trademark. The judge is a Communist! To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: re: get dem bastards! With apologies, Hef. You’re absolutely right. First thing Monday morning, I will draft a cease-and-desist letter telling the guy that plauboys.com, playpoys.com, playbochannel.com, playbychannel.com, playbouchannel.com, etc., are all in violation of our trademark. If we need to go to court, we’ll win for sure: Fortunately for us (and our readership), courts take pity on Web surfers who can’t spell properly. To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: re: fwd: HERBAL VIAGRA WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION!!! Sorry, Hef, we can’t sue. There really is nothing you can do about spam. These New Age sex-aid companies have no shame. To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: re: fwd: re: re: fwd: the reporters are calling That’s a tough one, Hef. I’d say run with “The Women of WorldCom.” (It worked last time with the “Women of Enron”!) Just tell anyone who asks that any lady is certainly free to state where she (used to) works. It’s “part of who they are.” To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: re: Can we do a geek-chic issue? Hmm, I’d have to say no. Yeah, it’s true, those Microsoft chicks are, as you say, “Hot, Hot, Hot,” but the people in Redmond have a ton of lawyers. I’d say the ladies are strictly off-limits. Everything else in Seattle, however, is fair play . . . To: [email protected] From: [email protected] Subject: Read the latest page proofs and . . . Hef, I just love it! One thing, though: You can’t refer to that girl on page 73 as a “hot mochaccino.” At no point can the font size for “Starbucks” be equal to the font size for “Playboy.” And finally, you must insist that the art department use a different photo for the girl on page 79. Ditch the apron with the Starbucks logo!

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