You’ve seen the memes showing “the most interesting man in the world” from the Dos Equis beer commercials that launched in 2006. They are easily recognizable, easy to create and leverage a connection the consumer already has with the brand. But did you know they potentially violate copyright laws?
Marketers love to capitalize on successful campaigns even if they are not their own. In 2013, the brewer of Dos Equis sued a New Jersey IT company for creating an video which states “I don’t always use third-party companies when I buy and maintain SAN equipment. But when I do, it’s always Team KCI” and closes with “Stay convergent, my friend.”
There are interesting legal issues that occur with parody ads and real time marketing regardless of any specific trademark usage when enough elements are used in combination to associate the brand with the original source. A TD Ameritrade Ad (“Nobody puts your old 401k in a corner”) drew the ire of Lionsgate Films while the Leo Burnett ad for United Healthcare has gone unscathed.