Absurd? Yes, but true! We have the online documentation to prove it! We have both the document text and images of the actual documents. I thought it was a joke myself, at first, and I held the letterhead in my suddenly cold hands.
You can view the correspondance in its entirety, or peruse the synopsis below. You can also enter the contest to come up with a new name (for fun), or send your views to Roadkills-R-Us and to the Mad Giraffe (we will forward them). Cartoons, media support, etc are also solicited.
Here are some of the overwhelming number of supporting responses.
You can also see, for the first time, see the truth about Geoffrey, here revealed as the giraffe-imitating, space alien, terra-fauna-devouring monster that he is, caught in an act of destruction so violent and terrible we cannot show it, and shortly before he swallowed the photographer whole! (75K GIF - not for the weak of stomach!) (For humor-impaired TRU lawyers, this is satire.)
The same letter later said, "...You can therefore imagine what problems we would encounter if we were to allow an individual or entity to run a business utilizing the name ROADKILLS-R-US over which we would have no control as to its quality."
I replied that there is no company, that there are no products and services, that RRU exists solely in my mind and in cyberspace, that it is not a business, or even an entity. As you can see, this went right over their heads.
I further pointed out that, "...I seriously doubt that anyone with the intellectual capacity necessary to negotiate traffic to one of your stores could confuse Roadkills-R-Us with anything even vaguely related to Geoffrey's domain."
I also forwarded printouts of some of the actual RRU web pages, to show the absurdity of the situation.
We spoke briefly on the phone. Nothing much came of this conversation, except that I realized Ms. Fowler was only doing her job.
I soon received an extremely terse letter responding to nothing, and demanding details of my intentions.
After some serious thought, prayer, and bouncing off the walls, I saw a win-win situation. I explained briefly about the Internet and Web, offered to put disclaimers on all RRU pages, and offered to help them develop a net presence, noting, "...I believe that linking up with the creator of Roadkills-R-Us would be excellent, free publicity you would not otherwise have."
This resulted in another phone call, in which Ms. Fowler said she would look into the possibilities. She informed me at this time that the company's answer was likely to be "no", but she would check. In the meantime, I had added disclaimers to the RRU pages.
Over 2 months later, I received notice that I had 3 months to change my "company name", or "we will turn this matter over to our litigation counsel..."
This letter went on to say, "We will expect all use of ROADKILLS R US on or in signs, stationery, business cards, checks, advertising, telephone and trade directories to cease within three months. Additionally, please copy us on the amendment to your articles of incorporation or fictitious name certificate, whichever is applicable, as well as your letter to the phone company indicating your change of name."
This was the funniest letter to date, as TRU has been informed that there is no business, no corporation, no checks, etc.
But they followed up with an even better one. I held off on telling the world and running this contest because a certain New York attorney heard about the whole mess and offered to "bust their chops" because RRU is obviously satire, which the courts have (over and over) allowed as not being infringement. He backed out of the offer, though (I guess they got to him! 8^), and the same day he did that, I got another letter from TRU, reminding me to change the signs outside my building, use up my stationary, tell the phone company of the change, and so forth. What a hoot!!!
Interestingly, during the 2 months of quiet, they put themselves on the web. I have to wonder if they weren't stalling me until they figured out whether they could do it without me, decided they could, did it (poorly, at least at first, but they did it), after which they decided it was time for RRU to die.
My response? Well, I'm treating this with all the respect it's due. I'm running a contest and collecting your responses! (I also sent them a letter playing by lawyer rules, demanding responses to everything they've ignored from me so far, and pointing out how lost in space they seem to be.)
Now they've tried to get an upstream ISP to cut us off. Bad timing. Wrong ISP. Wouldn't have worked, anyway. See below.
In short, I can reach no possible conclusion other than thay they are being bullies - squashing someone just because they can - their legal budget, as measured in dollar bill volume, is probably bigger than my house, and they know it.
RRU has been on the Internet in some form for over 7 years. If anything, Toys-R-Us[TM] is the interloper here!
[The attorney contacting me, Ms. Fowler, has been very polite throughout this, and I suspect she is merely doing her job, which is handed to her by someone else. Of course, that's just a guess. She's suddenly got so many meetings to attend she can't return my calls, although she has time to put together FAXes to ISPs! -Miles]
I just found out that we were written up two years ago in The Internet Legal Practice Newsletter...
Meanwhile, I still get email about it, running several hundred to one against TRU.
But the incredible Torts-R-Us page has shown up in support of RRU - don't miss this! (And check out the other -R-Us sites as ell.)
I suggest that all ISP providers should be considering possible impact to them once precedent is set, and consider contacting Toys-R-Us and letting them know what they think. As usual, we'd like to be Cc'd, or if you simply send it to us, we'll pass it on.
Ms. Fowler is not returning my calls. I have tracked down their marketing person responsible for Internet, but she's never available. It finally dawned on me to just use their web site to tell them, since I don't think they realize what is happening, so I sent this (it's verbatim, except I've corrected a spelling error (oops)):
I am boycotting your stores for the obvious reason that you are threatening to sue me over the name Roadkills-R-Us. It's satire, not a business! I have repeatedly informed your attorneys of this, but they seem to be stuck in a rut. RRU has been on the net for over 7 years - and you just got here, and immediately got ugly. So I am running a contest for a new name, but I'm also telling the world the details, and you are getting a LOT of bad press over this.We have 100s of responses, all in our favor. We have faxed a number of these to Ms Fowler (including the ones above, but with names attached). No word.
Others are boycotting as well. Your legal department is currently NOT returning my phone calls, and the person whose name & number I was given for Internet PR never seems to be in when I call. Geoffrey is looking pretty silly about now. I didn't *want* to do this. I tried extremely hard to be reasonable, but your legal department has acted in a high-handed, and quite absurd fashion, so I saw no other choice but taking my case to the public.
Don't believe me? Check out the following URLs:
Those pages are getting thousands of hits every day, growing at a very fast rate. I urge you to get someone from marketing involved before Geoffrey gets any more egg on his face.
Respectfully yours, Miles