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JibJab sues White Castle over social media campaign

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Humor site JibJab doesn’t think White Castle’s latest ad campaign is very funny, and has filed a lawsuit to stop the fast food chain from using its name to promote “chicken rings” on Facebook.

JibJab, which gained global fame for a presidential parody in 2004, makes satire videos and online greeting cards like “elf yourself” that let people put their faces on animated figures.

The company this week sued White Castle over a recent social media campaign called “Jib Jab Chicken Ring” in which the chain sought to promote a food that appears as no. 7 on the site Top 13’s list of “Gross Fast Food items”

Jib Jab claims that White Castle’s promotion featured a tweet “5 minutes of @JibJab #fame?” and Facebook ads with the word “Jib Jab.” The animation firm also claims White Castle’s promotion borrowed its own style of “old fashioned caricatures of mustachioed men, characters with disproportionately large heads and animated jaws.”

A spokesperson from White Castle said lawyers from the two companies have been in discussion but declined to offer further details.

The case raises interesting questions about what ideas can be used in social media. JibJab has sued others in the past, including Toyota for using a talking, tap-dancing George Washington in a President Day’s ad.

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing has accused JibJab of hypocrisy for using the First Amendment to defend their unauthorized use of the tune to “This Land Is your Land,” but then turning around to sue others.

In the case of White Castle, which gained recent fame through a popular comedy and Beastie Boys songs, the chain may be on thin ice because of its use of the JibJab name. Under trademark law, the test is whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” among consumers.

White Castle appears to have hit on a clever social marketing idea (to the extent that promoting orb-shaped chicken is ever a good idea) by encouraging fans to engage with it online, but it hit a trip wire when it used the Jib Jab name.

White Castle has already removed the “Jib Jab Chicken Ring” campaign from its Facebook timeline, but Jib Jab may be pursuing the suit in an effort to extract dollars. Its complaint (posted below) asks for $2 million.

The burger chain has far from given up on social media altogether though. Witness how it is promoting “Wedding Wednesday” on its timeline:

Jib Jab v White Castle

7 Responses to “JibJab sues White Castle over social media campaign”

  1. There’s some sort of fine line there, which White Castle may or may not have crossed. Many parts of their campaign are perfectly reasonable under fair-use commentary; the fact is that JibJab did feature WC’s product in a “gross” food list, so if WC want’s to turn around and take pride in that, they have every right to announce the fact in tweets, Facebook updates, and even paid ads, making nominative fair use of the JibJab name in conjunction with citing this factual information. Where they may have gone too far is in creating interactive sites using videos mimicking JibJab’s style; is this protected parody or infringement? Such activity might lead consumers to think that they’re working in conjunction with JibJab in creating this campaign.

    • OutMaturity

      I totally agree with your comments and you make great points supporting each sides case.

      I’m anxious to see how this one plays out, but now I need to grab a snack, perhaps a “slider”.

  2. Daniel T Wood

    I hope the Monty Python troupe sues JibJab for their unoriginal “characters with disproportionately large heads and animated jaws.”

  3. Venture

    Does anyone know who these jib jab loosers are that sue ppl to get money because they are obviously irrelevant and trying to get some money? I’ll prob get sued next since these idiots think they own the word jib jab.

      • Venture

        Of course another smart ass mouthbreather that I have to explain myself too. Do you not understand these people are con artist thinking they can make an easy buck for trying to own a word and have their hands in everyones pockets. When you own a business how the hell will you even know if someone owns the words you want to use for ypur advertising.