Originally posted 2015-08-13 21:27:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Originally posted 2006-10-19 13:44:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Sounds like a reasonable assertion, right? The same thing will happen if you stick your hand into an Acme trash compactor. It’s just bad practice. Who could be offended by that?


Emerson Electric could (links added):

Emerson Electric is suing NBC over a scene in their new series “Heroes” that featured the company’s garbage disposal, according to an CNN Money article. The first episode showed one of the characters (whose superpowers include indestructibility) stuffing her hand down the disposal and getting it mangled, although within a few seconds her hand was fully healed.

However, Emerson, makers of the “InSinkErator,” believes the scene gratuitously showed their product as being dangerous. Their suit alleges that the program “implies an incorrect and dangerous design for a food waste disposer,” and “casts the disposer in an unsavory light, irreparably tarnishing the product.” They are reportedly asking the court to order NBC to “remove Emerson trademarks from future broadcasts of the show and also seek damages suffered from NBC’s acts of “unfair competition, trademark infringement, and trademark dilution.”

A spokesman for Emerson pointed out data showing that not only are you 10 times more likely to suffer harm from your dishwasher, but any injuries suffered in the event of a disposal accident would not be nearly as severe as those shown in the TV episode.

You can’t say “unbelievable” any more, because nothing is. But on the face of it, this sounds mighty flimsy — “trademark use,” anyone? — and an abuse of the Lanham Act that may be sanctionable. Decide for yourself and let me know what you think: Here’s the amended complaint.

The suit was filed in St. Louis, where Emerson is based.

UPDATE:  Stupid claim settled.  Of course.

By Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

12 thoughts on “Emerson InSinkErator trash compactors will mangle your hand if you stick it in one of them.”
  1. Well, Ron, in matters like this, I would usually turn to my IP lawyer. Since I don’t have one yet, I would turn to you.

    If the purpose of a trademark is to help the consumer know with whom he or she is dealing and what qualities he or she associates with that mark, then I guess I could see an argument that this unfairly associates negavtive qualities with the mark — if the viewer were both quick enough to catch the Emerson mark AND slow enough to miss that IT’S ONLY A TV SHOW!

    I don’t know what brands of blender and microwave were used to dispatch the gremlins in the kitchen scene of Gremlins. And you know what? I don’t believe those scenes are all that accurate about what would happen if you shoved extraterrestrial beasties into them, so who cares what the brands were?

  2. Well, Martin, I would appoint you a federal judge for the Eastern District of St. Louis if only I were President!

    Instead I will give you a months’ free access to LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION.

  3. Is it actually the position of Emerson in this matter that putting your hand into one of their garbage disposals is a perfectly safe thing to do? I think their product-liability attorney, who most likely advised them to include various warnings on the packaging and manuals for their product, would question the desirability of encouraging such action.

  4. I can see how Emerson would be miffed.

    The label is clearly visible in the shot. And if that is an over-exaggeration of the actual damage that would occur to a hand, and I suspect it is, I could see how they could argue that such a scene might lead to an unwarranted negative association with their brand. Whether that was intentional on NBC’s part is highly questionable.

    So it seems to me like Counts 4 & 5 might have some merit, and maybe even count 7. But the others seem like a stretch.

    If I were on a jury, I could probably be convinced to throw a bone Emerson’s way (metacarpal, perhaps?).

  5. Ron, I think you know I’m an engineer, not a lawyer. Now, I have been involved in a few patent cases over the years, and I have been advised and coached by some damn fine attorneys.

    One thing I noticed in this case was Emerson’s demand for a jury judgment.

    I once had a wise old attorney tell me that in a jury trial, for better or for worse, the law is often secondary. It can sometimes be trumped by the minds of the jurors.

    I was alluding to that in my comment.

  6. Jay, very few cases really go to juries. Jury demands are mainly included for the in terrorem effects. Here they aren’t going to scare NBC, though, and I am not at all sure what a jury would think about this dumb claim. And considering that juries are never a sure thing, well… I don’t get it.

  7. When I first watched that episode, I don’t recall actually noticing what brand the disposer was… it would take a very careful viewer to observe that detail, while it would take a very gullible one to think that this fantasy program is actually making any valid observations about the dangerousness of particular disposal models rather than artistic license. When Hollywood movies and TV shows have cars and trucks constantly having spectacular explosions any time they’re even lightly tapped in a collision, is that defaming the automobile industry?

  8. Would it have been better to have had the hand emerge from the In Sink Erator unscathed? I mean, the basis of the complaint, as I read it, is that the show portrays In Sink Erators in a misleading light. Were I an In Sink Erator owner I would actually hope the show’s portrayal is accurate. If I’m in the market for a disposal, you bet I want a hand-mangler. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t it supposed to mangle what I put in it? That’s exactly why I try to keep my hand out of the disposal. “Dangerous” is not a negative connotation; it is exactly how I like many of my domestic appliances.

  9. Most of the new models of insinkerator are batch feed which means the machine will only come on if you screw the cover on top. Its a safety feature to stop you from having any accidents while its on. So yes the show has shown something which is physically impossible to do with a lot of the insinkerators

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