(A version of this piece was also carried on Indian news website WeSpeakNews)
Yesterday, I got sent a press release from Scots comic Alan Anderson. Last year at the Edinburgh Fringe, he performed a show titled Alan Anderson: Whisky Fir Dummies. This year, his show is billed in the Fringe Programme as Alan Anderson: Whisky Fir Dummies 2.0 with the come-on that there will be “free whisky tasting during every show”.
Except, Alan says, the show will not now be titled that because US publishers John Wiley & Sons have a series of ….. For Dummies books and they have threatened to sue him.
Alan claims in his press release that much of the terminology used in the show is from the Gaelic language and, in Scots Gaelic, the show title itself Whisky Fir Dummies means “Whisky, man pacifier”.
I have no idea if this is true or not. It sounds unlikely and potentially like a publicity stunt.
But, whatever the truth of the translation, Alan Anderson says John Wiley & Sons’ lawyers have accused him of “passing off” his comedy stage show Whisky Fir Dummies as one of their ….. For Dummies books. They claim it is “likely to result in serious confusion and result in dilution of Wiley’s trademarks”.
Alan says: “The legal advice given (to me) is that the show title does not infringe Wiley’s For Dummies trademark, nor do any of their UK/EU trademark registrations cover the fields of live whisky tasting or stand up comedy. However as an act of goodwill towards Wiley’s – and to prevent a lengthy and costly legal battle – it was decided to change the show title. This also opens up the possibility of publishing a series of books, CD or DVD of the show titled Whisky For Dafties or better still Copyright Law For Dafties. Sadly however the name change means that the Edfringe.com URL has been changed making it difficult for customers to purchase tickets for the show online.
“As for causing confusion or passing off,” continues Alan, “if you think a large corporation like Wiley’s would put on a whisky tasting show in the basement of an Edinburgh student pub at 9pm during the Fringe then you probably need to read Marketing For Dummies. If having seen the show you still think Wiley’s is responsible then you should probably write How to produce an award winning Edinburgh comedy show for Dummies.”
If true, this tale is yet another an example of a large American company taking leave of its corporate senses and personally I think they should publish Wanking For Dummies (a sure-fire hit for small children in the UK). They obviously know a lot about the subject.
If untrue, Alan’s press release is a contender for the increasingly highly-esteemed Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.
Either way, he is on to a winner in publicity terms.