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“Eat Cheese or Die!”: Clever, but Does It Infringe?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 29, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

In the name of tourism, states, cities and other “destinations” are always trying to figure out new slogans. The problem is: there are a lot of them in use out there. Too many.

Wisconsin adopted a slogan recently and for all the pointed criticism, ridicule, laughter and bad publicity it inspired, they are probably wondering why they even bothered.

“Live Like You Mean It.”

The State paid $50,000.00 to a consultant for that. Unfortunately, among many other drawbacks, it infringes on advertising slogans for Bacardi Rum and a self help book.

On the positive side (this is probably what the ad agency told Wisconsin if they asked for the money back) it generated press coverage, including a column in the New York Times by Gail Collins that was read by millions who had a good laugh.

Of course, if they had wanted Americans to laugh with them, Wisconsin could have adopted the slogan that was the popular favorite with the people of the State: “Eat Cheese or Die.” On second thought, in an age where we are being constantly threatened with death through pandemic or Chinese-manufactured food products, perhaps the popular favorite slogan would have brought down an avalanche of bad publicity on the front page (and editorial page) of every remaining newspaper in the world.

Wisconsin is not the first. We had a nearly identical experience in Pennsylvania a few years ago and we survived to do it again.

Pennsylvania adopted a tourism slogan a few years back: “Pennsylvania: State of Independence”. They held a contest and this gem was the winner. After the announcement with much fanfare, it was learned that the new slogan was a registered trademark of Saab. The automaker graciously consented to the infringement, though, and everyone lived happily ever after.

It turns out that “Eat Cheese or Die” isn’t original either. Its been used on bumper stickers in Wisconsin for a while and was even mentioned years ago by University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse in one of her enigmatic sentence fragments in her blog.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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