Best-Selling Author Sues Chobani Yogurt For Stealing The Word ‘How’

Best-selling author Dov Seidman has written a book to help companies develop an ethical model for running their business. The title of his book is How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything, and the basis of his entire business plan is the word “how.”

According to Yahoo News, Seidman is not the only one who has discovered the advertising power of the word “how.” Chobani yogurt has employed “how” for their marketing campaign, using the slogan “How Matters.” The author, Dov Seidman, is now suing Chobani over the use of “how,” claiming the company stole it from him. Seidman has asked the court to force Chobani to stop the ad campaign because it infringes on his trademark.

Chobani and its advertising agency, Droga5, have responded to Seidman defensively, claiming they’ve never heard of him, his book, or the intellectual property he accused them of stealing. They also took a more aggressive stance by asking the court to cancel Seidman’s trademark of “how,” because it is too broad of a word to claim ownership. Chobani and Droga5 also proceeded to file for their own trademark for “How Matters.”

“How Matters,” does appear occasionally in Seidman’s book, which he describes as “a HOW book, not a how-to book.” Seidman is suing both Chobani and the advertising agency, saying their use of “How Matters” damages the brand of his 10-year-old company, LRN.

According to the New York Daily News, Seidman’s suit against Chobani claims that his company, LRN, “is based on promoting ethical corporate behavior, own federal trademark registrations for word and mark HOW… HOW marks convey a clear and consistent meaning: that how an organization behaves matters.”

Chobani’s mistake, according to Seidman, was stealing his exact phrase “How Matters” for their marketing campaign. While Chobani claims the campaign is coincidental, Seidman pointed out that Chobani sent him a Twitter message on January 29 that read, “Thanks for inspiring the world to care about ‘how.’ Can you help inspire the food industry, too?”

Chobani then proceeded to launch their “How Matters” campaign the “very next day,” according to Seidman’s lawsuit, “which employs ‘HOW’ in precisely the same manner as plaintiffs employ their HOW marks: as a noun connoting responsible and ethical corporate behaviors.”

It might not be easy for Seidman to prove ownership of the word “how,” according to trademark lawyer James D. Weinberger. He claims that only words with no other meaning or that exist within an unusual context prove to be strong trademarks, like “Windows” computers or “Polaroid.” Seidman, however, is using the word “how” very closely “€œin connection with its ordinary meaning,” said James D. Weinberger. “€œI think these rights are very weak conceptually.”

Chobani was involved in another recent controversy when Russia banned their yogurt from the Olympics.