The band OK Go has reached a confidential settlement to end a bizarre legal battle with Post Foods over a new line of on-the-go cereal packages called “OK Go!”
Just months after OK Go — a power pop band best known for its viral music videos — vowed to fight back against a “big corporation” that “chose to steal the name of our band to market disposable plastic cups of sugar to children,” attorneys for both sides asked a Minnesota federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit permanently, with each side paying their own legal bills.
The filing said that the two sides had “settled this action on terms agreeable to all parties,” but did not include specific terms of the agreement in public court records, like whether the band would be paid or if Post would change the brand name. Neither side immediately returned requests for comment on Friday (June 2).
The settlement will resolve an unusual legal dispute that pitted a pop band against a multinational food company, asking the question: Will consumers who see a portable snack package of Fruity Pebbles on a supermarket shelf think that a band with a similar name had endorsed it?
The fight started in September when an attorney for the band sent a cease-and-desist letter warning Post that OK Go was “surprised and alarmed” to see Post’s new product line. He claimed the name infringed the trademark rights to the band’s name since it would “suggest to consumers that OK Go is endorsing Post’s products,” or falsely imply that the cereal company had received permission to use it.
“Our client regards this matter with the utmost seriousness and has authorized us to take all steps necessary in any venue to protect its rights,” OK Go’s attorney wrote in the September letter. “If we do not hear from you within 10 days of the date of this letter, we will assume that Post does not wish to resolve this matter amicably.”
A week later, an attorney representing Post responded, saying that the company must “respectfully disagree” with the band’s accusations. The attorney argued that rock music and breakfast cereal were “clearly unrelated” products and that the phrase “OK Go” was merely a common term that had previously been used by many other companies on their products.
In January, Post took the battle to court, asking a federal judge for what’s known as a “declaratory judgment” — meaning a pre-emptive ruling that the company did nothing wrong. Post argued that the trademark rights of a rock band like OK Go don’t extend to an unrelated product like cereal and that the new cups are clearly marked with Post’s own brand names to avoid any confusion.
“Without resolution by this court, Post will be unfairly forced to continue investing in its new OK GO! brand while under the constant threat of unfounded future litigation by defendants,” the cereal company wrote in its lawsuit.
In a statement to Billboard at the time, the members of OK Go said they’d been surprised to learn of Post’s lawsuit.
“A big corporation chose to steal the name of our band to market disposable plastic cups of sugar to children. That was an unwelcome surprise, to say the least,” the band wrote. “But then they sue US about it? Presumably, the idea is that they can just bully us out of our own name, since they have so much more money to spend on lawyers? I guess that’s often how it works, but hopefully, we’ll be the exception.”
According to Post’s lawsuit, the company had offered to pay the band as part of a “good faith effort” to resolve the dispute without resorting to litigation, despite its belief that the accusations lacked legal merit. The company claimed OK Go rejected that offer and made no counter-proposal, leaving Post with no choice but to file a lawsuit.