Top 10 Questions
People Are Asking The Toucans
The Toucans, a Seattle-based steel drum band who
have been playing in the Northwest for close to a decade, applied
for a federal trademark in class 9 (which includes sound recordings)
to protect their name. The band was stunned when opposition to
their application was filed by the Kellogg Company, which claims
infringement on their 'Toucan Sam' trademark (in class 30, which
includes cereal-derived food products), as well as damages caused
by the band's name!
As the band's plight reaches a national audience via public
radio, television, news sources, and the internet, Kellogg's
continues to respond with misleading statements and erroneous
information. To keep the record straight, and to let you know
just how ridiculous Kellogg's opposition is, we've compiled a
list of answers to the most frequently-asked questions about
Are you the band that's being sued by Kellogg's?
- Well, we're not actually being sued (yet). The Kellogg Company
is opposing our trademark registration application, based on
claims of infringement and damages and the likelihood that the
public will be confused between their product (Froot Loops) and
our products (steel drum recordings).
- Why did you pick the name Toucans?
- The band's name originated in 1988 as a pun on
the instruments we play (steel drums, "pans", or "cans"
as we like to call them), but also refers to the brightly colored
and gregarious tropical bird, the toucan.
Native to the rainforests of central and south America, the toucan
has been around for thousands of years, much longer than any
cereal company. The toucan is one of the rainforest's most fun
birds, just as the Toucans are one of the Northwest's most fun
- Why don't you just change your name?
- The Toucans have worked hard to establish our name over the
last eight years. Now that we're starting to get some more recognition,
the last thing we would want to do is to switch to another name.
Even a name that is similar, like "Two Cans" or "Toucans
Steel Drum Band", lacks the charm and simplicity of our
original name choice.
- Why do you want to trademark your name, anyway?
- The Toucans have made a strong name for themselves in the
Northwest region over the last eight years, and now our popularity
is beginning to spread. Most bands, at this point in their careers,
seek to protect their name with a trademark registration. The
most visible use of a band's name is on its albums, which may
continue to sell long after the band itself has stopped performing.
The Toucans have applied for a trademark in class 9 (which includes
sound recordings) with the hope that their albums will be popular
and their name well-known for years to come.
- Why don't you just offer to advertise for
- The Toucans have never associated themselves in any way with
the Kellogg Company or its products, or with any other corporation.
Our music is our own unique creation and form of expression;
we don't want to sell out to anybody, least of all a giant multi-national
corporation. HOWEVER, if the Toucan DID ever wish to associate
themselves with a commercial product, it would most likely be
one of the Toucans' favorite beverages, Guinness Stout!
- Have you gotten any publicity about this yet?
- The Seattle Times was kind enough to run a
story about the Toucans on the front page (March 10, 1995)!
The story was picked up by the AP Newswire, a national news source,
as well as local television, radio, and several magazines. National
Public Radio broadcast a short feature on the Toucans, reaching
millions of listeners nation-wide, and reports have come in of
mention on MTV and CNN! The Toucans have publicized their story
on the Internet, reaching thousands of people across the nation
and the world. We also told our parents.
- What happens next?
- The Toucans have been trying to reach a settlement with Kellogg's,
but so far the cereal giant has offered no fair agreement and
continues to demand that the Toucans withdraw their trademark
registration application. A hearing date will be set by the Trademark
Trial & Appeals Board, and then it's up to the Toucans to
come up with enough money to have their lawyers prepare the case
briefs. Even if a decision is rendered in favor of the Toucans,
it's likely that Kellogg's will appeal the decision, extending
the legal process and our legal costs even further.
- Do you have a real lawyer?
- Yes, the Toucans have real lawyers working on this case with
them. They work real hard, and charge real money. Some work has
been done pro bono, but still the expenses rise quickly. Lead
Counsel Neil Sussman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is coordinating
the efforts of the Toucans' Dream Team, and would be happy to
speak to anyone who has time or knowledge to offer.
- What can I do to help you guys?
- For starters, you can call Kellogg's toll-free number for
their Consumer Affairs Department and let them know how you feel
about their actions. Call 1-800-962-1413 and
give them a piece of your mind. There are also lots
of other things you can do to help!
- What's your favorite breakfast cereal?
- The Toucans don't have a favorite cereal; they prefer
to start their mornings with juice, fruit, nuts, berries, and
a strong cup of coffee. Even if they did eat cereal, they would
probably pick one which wasn't over 50% sugar. Did you know that
Froot Loops is one of the most heavily sugared cereals in the
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