Thursday, August 17, 2006

ISO update

In a previous post on First Act, the primary seller of musical instruments at big-box retailers, I asked whether First Act could claim it had been disparaged by negative references to the quality of "musical instruments sold at big-box retailers," since it dominates that sales channel. In today's New York Times, a seller of used flutes states:
“You can go to a big discount store and buy a brand new flute for a hundred bucks, but the child will be very frustrated because the sound won’t be as good as her neighbor’s,” she said. “And six months later? It breaks.”

Human beings can recover for defamation when their identities are recognizably invoked, and false comparative advertising claims have proceeded when the advertiser used the term "the leading brand" or a recognizable silhouette but not the product name. I am unaware, however, of cases extending that principle to advertising that mentions a sales channel occupied by only one seller. In theory, it seems that such a claim would be as valid as the claims against other indirect but unambiguous references.

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