This from the blogs of AdWeek magazine:
In a baffling act of litigious bullying, Virgin America has filed a lawsuit against the popular advertising blog Adrants for posting and commenting on a parody ad. The spoof ad showed a picture of that US Airways jet floating in the Hudson River, alongside the message “Fly Virgin America.” Adrants initially noted that the ad’s “origins are suspect,” and later updated the post to make it clear that the ad was a parody from someone outside Virgin. Then Adrants pulled the item entirely. But that apparently wasn’t enough for Virgin America, which on Monday filed a “complaint for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and false and deceptive advertising, trademark dilution, false and misleading statements, dilution in violation of California law, and defamation.”
Wow. What a mistake. First, suing a fairly well established industry blog doesn’t help with the goodwill in your brand. Second, now this ad (which you can see at the original blog post) is going to be seen by thousands more pople–not just the people who read the ad blog, but people like me (interested in the trademark law implications) and the millions of net critiques who get ahold of these stories and stretch them for all they’re worth (okay, maybe I fall into this category as well). Third, Virgin is wasting lots of money, and, unlike a “business-to-business” trademark dispute over the use of potentially competing marks, Virgin is not getting much in return (the post was taken down, there probably is no quantifiable damage, and attorneys’ fees are highly unlikely).
Don’t get me wrong; the mock ad was irresponsible (if a bit funny). And the original blog was irresponsible in even suggesting that it was anything but a joke. And Virgin was probably right to contact the blog and say, “Hey, this is a satire, but it’s not appropriate that Virgin be the brunt of this joke. We honor the achievement of the US Air crew and employees in the handling of this incident, and out of respect for the victims of the tragedy, we request that you remove this phony ad naming us.” But by actually filing suit (and apparently maintaining it even after the takedown), the company becomes another faceless corporation that attempts to stifle social commentary and expression.
EDIT: The Citizens Media Law Project has comprehensive coverage of the case, including case filings and status.