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A trademark case filed in Atlanta federal court by a chicken restaurant has caused the top lawyer for a burger chain to develop a serious case of the puns. “We said, ‘What a clucking shame.’… It left us in a fowl mood over the Fourth of July weekend … and if they bothered to keep abreast of trademark law, they wouldn’t have to wing it with a case like this,” said W. Barry Blum, vice president and general counsel for Miami-based Burger King North America. He expects a ruling soon on his company’s motion for summary judgment. Blum was referring to a suit that Chick-Fil-A Inc., of Atlanta, has brought over Burger King’s ad campaign tie-in with this summer’s popular movie “Chicken Run” by British animator Nick Parks. The ads use the same chicken figures as the movie, carrying signs that urge passersby to “Eat More Beef.” Unlike the other major fast-food hamburger chains, Burger King has no particular mascot. Every year, the company creates a new ad campaign around the summer’s major child-oriented blockbuster movie. Chick-Fil-A claims that the sign-carrying chickens are “a blatant attempt to imitate, copy and ‘rip off’ ” the chicken chain’s 5-year-old ad campaign featuring Holstein cattle and signs that urge the public to “ eat mor chikin,” Chick-Fil-A has charged Burger King with federal and state trademark dilution. Chick-Fil-A v. Burger King, 1 00-CV-1675. GOT IDEAS? Chick-Fil-A is “trying to protect the idea of one animal encouraging the consumption of another. They are trying to use copyright law so broadly,” said Marlene M. Gordon, Burger King’s senior attorney for marketing and trademarks. Blum pointed out that a Chick-Fil-A billboard features a cow painting a sign that says “Got Chicken?” He notes that the “Got Milk?” phrase belongs to the American Dairy Association. “I find it ironic that the suit against Burger King was filed by someone who is using a knock-off of ‘Got Milk?’ ” he says. Chick-Fil-A is being represented by Mark VanderBroek, of Atlanta’s Troutman Sanders. He declined to comment on the litigation. But in court papers, Chick-Fil-A claims to have received “hundreds of reports” from consumers and industry representatives “who have seen the Burger King promotion and who immediately believed that Burger King is copying Chick-Fil-A’s ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ Ad Campaign.” ‘OVERSTEPPING’ Trademark specialist Melville Owen has few kind words for the suit. Owen, a partner at San Francisco’s Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, said the case may be “overstepping the line” as far as trademark dilution is concerned. “It sounds as if it’s more a publicity stunt, and it will make the lawyers look silly, unfortunately,” he said. He said that a wiser course of action would have been for Chick-Fil-A to ignore Burger King’s picketing-chicken commercials. As an example, he pointed to one of his long-time clients, Menlo Park, Calif.’s Sunset magazine. Some years ago, New West magazine created a parody issue, dubbed Sunsect. “The client called me all upset, but I said not to do a thing other than to send them a note complimenting them on their parody,” Owen said. “If we’d filed a suit, it would have been just the twist New West wanted.”

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