Surprise! Lawyers *can* be polite, even to “adversaries”

I have long believed that most people – even competitors – are eminently reasonable. Most people who take action that offend you, whether personally or commercially, are doing so for the most innocent of reasons. If only made aware of the impact of their actions, they would change them to everyone’s benefit. Of course, that isn’t always true, unfortunately (my neighbour’s parking is a good example), and sometimes you need to take out the brass knuckles.

When dealing with corporations legal departments, aggressiveness is usually the norm. How many nasty letters has Apple’s legal department sent? Remember Microsoft’s lawyers, especially as they dealt with partners, in the 1990s? And the worst, absolutely the worst, is the cease-and-desist letter. This lovely creation of lawyers is the way companies say, “you did something we don’t like, we own it, you have no rights, you might as well belong to us, stop it right now, you worthless piece of garbage, or we will use the courts to get you, your mother, your first-born, and your dog.” The language, of course, is much more legal-sounding, but the tone is usually not that far off.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see an article this morning on mashable.com, relating how Jack Daniel’s, one of the best-selling Whiskeys in the world, and with a claimed legacy of 150 years, found a book cover by a fellow Tennesseean to be too close a copy of its own copyright. Instead of the usual nasty letter, the attorneys at Jack Daniel’s actually displayed understanding, and sent a polite letter that recognized the honest desires of the book’s author, and politely requested less infringing behaviour. I am duly impressed.

I don’t know the long term impact, but I certainly plan on buying a bottle of Jack Daniel’s next time I pass through duty-free.

About Avi Deitcher

Avi Deitcher is a technology business consultant who lives to dramatically improve fast-moving and fast-growing companies. He writes regularly on this blog, and can be reached via Facebook, Twitter and avi@atomicinc.com.
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