Got Breastmilk? Californian Milk Board Threatens Batik Artist Mum

Remember when Jennifer Laycock of The Lactivist was stomped on by Big Pork for selling a T-shirt saying “The other white milk“?

“Your use of this slogan also tarnishes the good reputation of the National Pork Board’s mark, in light of your apparent attempt to promote the use of breastmilk beyond merely for infant consumption”,

the Pork Board whined, with a side serve of insinuation that The Lactivist was a sexual lactation fetish site. (Or were they really, truly freaked out that she is just fine with toddlers and preschoolers breastfeeding, not just infants – and thought that that any association with all that booby malarkey would reflect badly on an organisation that intensively tortures pigs before making them into bacon? We’ll never know.)

As Jennifer said at the time;

Apparently the National Pork Board is worried that someone might come to my breastfeeding blog, check out the shirts and worry that when I say “white milk” what I really mean is “thick and juicy, straight from the hog PORK.”

After a to-and-fro and a few activist letters, the Porkies backed down – and instituted a voluntary fund-raising campaign among its staff to gather donations for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio, the cause Jennifer was selling the shirts for in the first place.

Now it’s the turn of Alaskan batik artist and breastfeeding advocate Barbara Holmes. Several years ago, she made ten of these T-shirts, and sold six of them, at her tiny webstore Mountntop Designs.


Holmes now has a letter of demand from the California Fluid Milk Processor Advisory Board to send them all the T-shirts, all the equipment used to make the T-shirts, an accounting of the profits generated by the T-shirts; and a demand that she destroy all depictions of the T-shirts. Yes – they want to confiscate some old wax and a bucket.

Ms Holmes is resisting the demands, her Talkeetna lawyer Paul Bratton claiming that it is a fair use parody of the Californian cows milk slogan, and that confusion between the products is unlikely.

Language Log gets in on the act:

Do the two phrases really sound alike? CMPB’s lawyers say they do:

The phrases ‘got breastmilk’ and ‘got milk?’ are similar except for the addition of the word ‘breast.’ This difference is not enough to eliminate the likelihood that consumers will be confused about the origin of the products.

Hmm. Got Milk? has 7 phonetic sounds; Got Breastmilk? has 12. This means that 42% of the sounds are different. I haven’t done a distinctive feature analysis on the two phrases but it would likely show an even greater difference, based on the additional phonetic features that “breast” would add.

Holmes’ take:

“They say I’m going to confuse milk consumers. How can you get confused between a boob and a bottle of milk from the store? They’re two different kind of jugs.”

I had a poke around the TESS Trademark Search site. They haven’t even trademarked in the area of T-shirts, as far as I can see. (Perhaps I’m missing something?) I can see trademarks by the Californian Board in the areas of ornamental novelty magnets, sunglasses, eyeglass cases, CD hodlers, posters, signs, paper banners, bumper stickers, folders, stickers, notepads, paper tableclothes, pencils, erasers, pens, coffee cups, plastic cups, drinking glasses, thermal mugs, gold balls, stuffed toys, and “association services provided to fluid milk producers in the state of California; namely, the advertising and promotion of the sale and use of fluid milk.” Don’t T-shirts fall into a different class? And I think “milk” here can safely be assumed to entail “cow’s milk” and cow’s milk only; they’re not marketing yak milk or echidna milk or human milk.

But there’s yet one more dimension to this little fooferaw. I paid a visit to the California milk marketing board’s website, and had a squiz at their merchandise. Surprise, surprise, I found this, an (bisphenol-A laden) Evenflo infant feeding bottle with a “Got milk?” logo.


This feeding bottle advertisement appears to be designed to promote the drinking of cows’ milk by babies, in contravention of local USAn infant health guidelines. Both the bottle promotion and the pushing-cowsmilk-to-babies contravenes the International WHO Code for the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Though the USA voted against the Code in 1981, thirteen years later the Clinton administration did endorse it – but it has never been enforced there.

Can’t help wondering what’s really motivating their campaign against breastfeeding advocates, hm?

More discussion is taking place at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 and The Lactivist.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, law & order

Tags: , ,

5 replies

  1. Are they kidding? I see the “got____” logo on all kinds of stuff that is marketed by giant corporations in real stores. Why would they pick on a lady who made 10 shirts?

  2. Ah, but those giant corporations pay the Milk Board a licensing fee to use the logo, Tracee.

  3. I wonder if they’d go after our local bookstore – their teen section is called “Got Angst?”

  4. Surely the logo on the bottle should be “NOT got milk?”.


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