Brain-dead lawyers: The other white meat

What do ThinkGeek, the National Pork Board, and unicorns have in common? Unintentional hilarity.

Ah, the Internet. One day she giveth, the next day she taketh away. Yesterday she gave me one of the best laughs I've had in a long time.

Our story starts with the National Pork Board. (Not to be confused with the National Dork Board, of which I am a member.) Yes, there really is a National Pork Board, and earlier this week the NPB sent a cease-and-desist letter to ThinkGeek, an online novelty store specializing in nerdy merchandise.

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The gist? The porkers wanted ThinkGeek to stop using the slogan "the new white meat" to advertise one of its products. Because as we all know, there is only one "other white meat," which you can identify by sticking it with something sharp. If it squeals like, well, itself, you know it's the genuine article.

The product ThinkGeek was selling: Canned Unicorn Meat. I'll let the product blurb explain:

As the unicorn ages, its meat becomes fatty and marbled and the living bone in the horn loses density in a process much like osteoporosis. The horn's outer layer of keratin begins to develop a flavor very similar to candied almonds. Blending the crushed unicorn horn into the meat adds delightful, crispy flavor notes in each bite.

But it was the product's tagline -- "Pate is passe. Unicorn -- the new white meat" -- that really fried the NPB's bacon. Apparently hog farmers are so afraid consumers might confuse their product with unicorns that they paid the lawyers at Faegre & Benson a porcine hourly fee to send a 12-page nastygram to ThinkGeek.

Need I point out that ThinkGeek began selling its Canned Unicorn Meat on April 1, 2010? I didn't think so.

ThinkGeek immediately knitted a silk purse out of the letter, posting it to its blog, along with descriptions of how the unicorns are cared for by the Sisters at Radiant Farms in County Meath, Ireland, fed a diet of candy corn, lovingly massaged with Guinness, then slaughtered and canned.

Company CEO Scott Kaufman issued an official apology (PDF), which read in part:

It was never our intention to cause a national crisis and misguide American citizens regarding the differences between the pig and the unicorn. In fact, ThinkGeek's canned unicorn meat is sparkly, a bit red, and not approved by any government entity.

But ThinkGeek wasn't done yet. It used the opportunity to promote its entire line of pork-related products (bacon salt, bacon soap, bacon-flavored envelopes), which are listed side by side with its zombie products because, as the blog notes, "we like to mix our meats." Using the special promotional code PORKBOARD nets you $10 off any purchase of $40 or more through the end of this month.

You can't get better advertising than that -- at least, if you're on the unicorn side of things. As for the NPB, well, I can't think of a more appropriate use of the word "hamfisted."

This is yet another example of the Streisand effect, or what inevitably happens when some powerful swine tries to bully someone into submission on the Net. (Who do they think they are -- Apple?) The porkers clearly do not understand the magnifying power of the Internet -- or at least, they didn't until yesterday.

You'd think by now they'd realize that, thanks to the InterWebs, everyone's got a megaphone. And as long as the Net remains open and neutral, it will stay that way.

Th-th-th-that's all, folks.

Is this all just a pig in a poke? (And what does that phrase actually mean?) Post your thoughts below or email me:

This story, "Brain-dead lawyers: The other white meat," was originally published at Read more of Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog.

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