Two Pimm’s, one cup

Here’s another case of cocktails and intellectual property colliding. This time it’s Diageo’s Pimm’s product versus a chain store knock-off called Pitchers. Click through to see the two labels; Pitchers is clearly building off of Pimm’s image. I don’t know what the legal ramifications of this would be in the UK.

More interestingly, part of Diageo’s claim has to do with the use to which the products are put. Specifically, Diageo doesn’t like the fact that Pitchers boasts that it mixes well with lemonade and fruit, a traditional pairing for Pimm’s often ordered by customers as a Pimm’s Cup. Pitchers also boasts that it outperforms Pimm’s in taste tests.

This is strikingly similar to the Dark and Stormy controversy. Diageo might have a legitimate claim that the bottle design dilutes their brand, but it’s hard to imagine any public good coming from forbidding competitors to tout their superiority in a popular mixed drink.

(For more on the American law regarding trademarks and cocktails, be sure to check this guest post at The Scofflaw’s Den by practicing attorney Chris Leger.)

Announcing the Arthur Kaler Award

If you follow tobacco policy, you’ve probably heard by now that Atlantic City is reversing its smoking ban after just one month of implementation. Just like the hypocrites in the Iowa legislature, the Atlantic City Council’s concern for workers ended when the city’s tax revenues took a hit; the double-whammy of an economic recession and driving smokers away from game floors was too much for casinos to handle. When private businesses that cater to smokers are hurt by smoking bans, of course, governments are rarely so sympathetic.

No surprises there, but blog pal Rogier van Bakel spotted a particularly galling passage in an article about the reversal:

The ban will end Sunday, and the situation will again revert to what it was before, where smoking is restricted to no more than 25 percent of the gambling floor… Arthur Kaler, a 25-year dealer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, felt betrayed by the council’s reversal.

“If we are here next year to revisit the smoking ban and I have fallen victim to lung cancer, will each of you look my family in the eyes?” he asked council members at a recent meeting. “Tell them how brave I was to fight secondhand smoke every day to save the economy of New Jersey. A ballpark or street could be dedicated in my honor, and my family can be bestowed a plaque.”

Sorry Arthur, I don’t think you’ll be seeing a bronze plaque anytime soon, despite your noble efforts on behalf of the economy of New Jersey. Yet you clearly deserve something. But since I can’t deliver what you truly deserve via html, this blog’s going to go Andrew Sullivan style and name an award after you: The Arthur Kaler Award for Sanctimonious Nannyism, dedicated to those whose self-righteous paternalism goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Our first nominee is the Portman Group in the UK. You may remember their ongoing campaign against Skullsplitter Ale for the beer label’s “violent” overtones. Today they have a new brewery in their crosshairs:

An “aggressive” beer sold under the name Punk IPA faces being banned after a ruling that it would promote irresponsible drinking.

The drink and two others made by BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Hop Rocker and Rip Tide, were found to have breached marketing rules in a provisional decision by the Portman Group, a self-regulating industry body.

It decided Rip Tide’s description as a “twisted merciless stout” would be associated with antisocial behaviour, while the claim that Hop Rocker was a “nourishing foodstuff” and that “magic is still there to be extracted” implied that it would enhance physical and mental capabilities.

Note that the Portman Group is funded by alcohol giants such as Coors, Carlsberg, Diageo, and InBev, suggesting that their moralizing has less to do with protecting helpless drinkers than it does with hurting small competitors. BrewDog managing director James Watt calls for getting rid of Portman instead of his beers. I haven’t seen BrewDog available here in the US, but I hope UK readers will pick up a few bottles in his support.

We’ll doubtlessly have more Kaler Award nominees coming up, so follow along here and when the time is right we’ll pick a winner.

Update 11/20/08: BrewDog is available in the US! I grabbed a bottle of their Punk IPA and one of their Scotch barrel aged ales today at Portland’s Belmont Station.

Smokers unfit for fostering

Several borough councils in London are considering banning smokers from taking in foster children, with one having just approved the measure:

Smokers are to be banned from becoming foster carers in one London borough, and other councils say they may follow suit.

Councillors in Redbridge, north-east London, voted unanimously for the ban at a cabinet meeting last night, to protect children from the dangers of passive smoking…

Children in the borough will not be placed with foster carers who smoke after January 2010. Existing foster carers will be given practical help and support to give up.

However, charity the Fostering Network has expressed concerns the policy could prevent good foster carers from coming forward.

“We certainly view this as a good move in terms of creating a smoke-free environment for a child, but we don’t agree that a blanket ban on any smokers becoming foster carers is the right thing,” a spokesman said.

While it may be sensible to require foster parents to not smoke indoors with their children, it’s hard to see any justification for bans like these beyond simple prejudice against people who enjoy tobacco. Having a cigarette on his patio isn’t going to do the slightest bit of harm to a child — certainly less harm than not having a caring foster parent at all would do.

These insidious bans have been spreading throughout the UK in the past year. As Michael Siegel notes, foster agencies normally exercise case-by-case discretion about who is suitable to care for kids. Smokers are put into unsavory company:

What Sheffield is saying here is that smokers are simply not fit to be parents. The city would rather take on a convicted criminal (as long as it’s not a sexual violence or child abuse-related crime) than a smoker. The city proclaims to be “so open” because “what matters most to a child is who you are as a person, your character and capacity to care.” But what seems to matter first and foremost is whether you smoke.

The city puts up very few categorical restrictions on foster parents. Even being a convicted criminal is not a categorical restriction. Your personal situation will be taken into account.

Not so if you are a smoker.

But it’s for the children, so it’s all good.