Fox News reports on an illustrative example food product facilitated by a talented attorney. An Australian food manufacturer has trademarked the spoonerized phrase “Nuckin’ Futs” for use on a nut-medley snack food. Apparently, Australia has its own vibrant ‘think of the children’ crowd, who vocalized the typical objections when the product first entered the market. The lawyer for “Nuckin Futs” got the name trademarked anyway:
Controversial snack food “Nuckin Futs” has been given the go ahead after no Australians lodged any official complaint with the trademarks office.
The “scandalous” brand name – a spoonerism of “f…in nuts” – attracted widespread publicity earlier this year after news.com.au revealed the trademark examiner had accepted it for the register pending a three-month “opposition period,” News.com.au reported.
Jamie White, solicitor director of law firm Pod Legal, who submitted the application on behalf of his Gold Coast client, said while he had received a number of emails personally no one had officially opposed it…
…White is set to lodge the trademark officially this week after successfully arguing his case that “Nuckin Futs” was not offensive because it was commonplace in everyday Australian language.
Despite the antipodal legal system at issue, this article demonstrates the larger principle that governments routinely regulate the words people can use on food products. In the US, believe it or not marketing compliance burdens are comparatively high. Food start-ups in particular routinely fail to anticipate how federal, state, and local governments interfere with the marketing and labeling of a product. They pick a name for their company because it sounds nice, then seek trademark protection after the fact. Farmers design labels without first enquiring how the USDA regulates the breed claims made on their meat products. Processors make health claims about their products without substantiating them, then complain about a recall or lawsuit from Center for Science in the Public Interest. Marketing compliance costs are as important as any other input and should be figured into an initial business plan, and you never know what those costs could be unless you ask someone who knows. Based on the article’s allusion to initial public outcry, I deduce that “Nuckin’ Futz” successfully trademarked after their launch, but that’s luck. If you have food business, don’t be nucking futs yourself. Plan ahead.