Chobani and Consulting Firm Battle Over Phrase “How Matters”
Dov Seidman is the best-selling author of the book, How: Why How We Do Anything Means Anything, and if you haven’t heard of him, then you should go look him up. Former President Bill Clinton wrote the foreword to How, and Seidman is the CEO of LGN, a business that does the almost unthinkable: it reaches out to other businesses and helps them create more ethical cultures.
For the last ten years, Seidman has built his brand using the tagline, “How Matters.” Seidman’s do-gooding, however, may be lost on the Greek yogurt company Chobani, which wants to stop Seidman from using his trademark.
Chobani introduced its own “How Matters” campaign during a 2014 Super Bowl commercial, which featured a bear that buys a Chobani yogurt container. A voiceover states: “A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it might,” which leads into the tagline: ‘How Matters.’ Jonathan Mahler of The New York Times reports that Chobani has built its brand around the phrase, which “highlight[s] the quality of its yogurt and the way it is made, including a straining process that makes it extra dense.”
Moreover, the inside of Chobani’s 100-calorie yogurt cup lids read, “‘Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists. #howmatters.”
Earlier this year, Seidman sued Chobani and its advertising agency Droga5, which is partly owned by William Morris Endeavor, for trademark infringement. Ashley Lutz of the Business Insider reports that Seidman argues: “They’re using ‘how’ to convey and connote that they are an ethical company. They are using ‘How’ exactly the way I use it. They’ve appropriated the foundation of my entire philosophy.”
Chobani and Droga5, however, have requested that the court cancel Seidman’s “How Matters” trademark because they believe it is too broad, and they have even filed their own trademark application for “How Matters.” Venessa Wong of BusinessWeek reports that Peter McGuiness, Chobani’s Chief Marketing and Brand Officer, stated that Seidman’s allegations are “baseless, desperate, and have no merit.” McGuiness further claims that “HowMatters” “speaks to our food philosophy,” which is a “beautiful and perfect articulation of what our brand is all about.”
Moreover, according to Mahler, Chobani and Droga5 claim they have never heard of Seidman, but ironically Seidman alleges that he had lunch with Droga5’s Vice Chairman, Andrew Essex, in 2013, who tweeted just days before the Super Bowl, “@DovSeidman: Thanks for inspiring the world to care about ‘how.’ Can you help inspire the food industry, too?” Nevertheless, Mahler reports that court papers claim that “no one on the creative team for Chobani had ever heard of Mr. Seidman. The agency said the inspiration for its campaign came during a brainstorming session at a Thai restaurant with an open kitchen that underscored the importance of how food is prepared.”
Seidman may have a tough time proving that Chobani infringed his trademark, as they are designed to prevent consumer confusion; therefore, the biggest hurdle that Seidman will have to climb is proving how consumers will confuse a Greek yogurt company with a consulting firm.
Joseph Perry (@jperry325) is a 3L at St. John’s University whose goal is to become a publishing and media law attorney. He has interned at William Morris Endeavor, Rodale, Inc., Columbia University Press, and is currently interning at Hachette Book Group and volunteering at the Media Law Resource Center, which has given him insight into the legal aspects of the publishing and media industries.
Featured Image Courtesy of [tbiley via Flickr]