Great Response to a “Prank” Cease-and-Desist Letter

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Buzzfeed's question, "Is This The Best Response To A Cease And Desist Letter Ever?," prompted some debate this morning, although it is one of those debates that is not really necessary (which is why we had it on Twitter) because everyone except maybe the recipient agrees it's very good.

The pitch that resulted in this line drive was a letter from the township of West Orange, New Jersey, to Jake Freivald, the owner of (That website is currently down due to increased traffic, not at all surprisingly.) West Orange's letter seems to have taken the position that was likely to confuse people into believing Freivald's site was affilated with the township and/or its website. But Freivald's lawyer, Stephen Kaplitt, suggested that nobody was likely to confuse his client's "rudimentary website" (cost $3.17) with the "virtual masterpiece" that is (cost said to be upwards of $35,000).

But that was only when he got to the part of his response that he said he would have sent, "had you intended for your letter to be taken seriously" in the first place. "Obviously [the letter] was sent in jest," Kaplitt wrote, "and the world can certainly use more legal satire." (Amen to that.) But just in case the writer was serious, Kaplitt also noted that geographic domain names have been repeatedly been found not to be protected marks, "especially when claimed by government or municipal authorities," as was the case here.

He had additional legal arguments as well, which he outlined before concluding, "But of course, only a humorless suit would have sent such a response to your literary gag gift." Buzzfeed has the whole letter, which is definitely worth reading. (When asking for authority supporting the town's demand, Kaplitt also mentions "those voluminous Township playground rules no one pays attention to," which I am about to go look up for Odd Law Project purposes. Bonus points for that.)

As to whether it is the "best response ever," Eric Turkewitz pointed out, I think correctly [but Scott Greenfield gets Twitter credit for being first], that no response letter is ever likely to equal the one sent in 1974 by Jim Bailey, then the general counsel for the Cleveland Browns. (So good it needed to be confirmed, which I talked about here.) Bailey was responding to an angry letter from a lawyer and season-ticket holder who noted that cases of paper-airplane sailing at games had increased sharply, posing "the risk of serious eye injury and perhaps an ear injury as a result of such airplanes." The letter demanded steps be taken to terminate this activity, failing which the writer would "hold you responsible for any injury sustained by any person in my party…." Response:

ResponseThere is no shame in coming in second to that.

On the other hand, it just struck me that Bailey wasn't responding to a cease-and-desist letter, or at least not the same kind sent by West Orange. So if desired, that debate can continue.