A cup full of trademark infringement

A cup full of trademark infringement - Protopopescu & Partners

A cup filled to the brim

Some people see the cup half empty, others see the cup half full. It seems that Solo Cup Company see it fully infringed.
The Solo Cup Company is famous in the US for the selling the (in)famous red plastic cup, ubiquitous in college movies. However, they also make other cups, including one with a blue and purple zig-zag stripe, pictured here on the left.
Christoper Locke is an artist and ceramics teacher, whose works focus on overconsumption and hints at the current state of corporate America. As such, he created a series of ceramic cups which showcase a satirical portrayal of the blue stripe, most notably ones that use that font to spell “Corporate Bullshit”.

Bottoms up

After posting the artwork on his Instagram account, Locke was promptly reported for trademark infringement, due to the fact that Solo Cup Company owns the trademark to the blue-purple pattern.
Although he deleted the photos, it would seem that one was left behind. Consequently, Instagram considered him as being a repeat infringer and swiftly deleted the artist’s entire account.
Despite numerous attempts to regain his account back, nothing could be done. After reaching out to the owner of the trademark, they coporatedly replied that the Company “appreciates its passionate community of fans”, but “we can assure you that we are in the process of remedying the other infringing items and that your items are not being singled out.”
In the meantime Instagram wrote back to him “We previously warned you that if you continued to infringe the rights of third parties, we would terminate your account. Accordingly, your account has been deactivated and you are no longer permitted to use Instagram. Thanks for your cooperation.”
Some might call into question the freedom of art. Others might point towards trademark dilution. Quite the conundrum.
The main takeaway from here is that you should always make sure that whatever name, logo or design you use is not already registered.
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