California Dairy Industry Tries to Trademark “Got Breastmilk?”


The California Milk Processor Board (also known as the CMPB or the California Fluid Milk Processor Advisory Board), home of the “Got Milk?” cow’s milk advertising campaign, is a collection of companies marketing cow’s milk and infant formula products in the USA.

In July this year, the Board’s lawyers heavied Alaskan crafter mum Barbara Holmes for making ten “Got Breastmilk?” T-shirts in her Alaskan kitchen. The charge? Trademark violation. The board claimed to be concerned – very concerned, you understand – that the buyers of these toddler tees might get all confused between the cow’s milk they bought in a two-quart jug from the supermarket, and the milk that came out of their own breasts.

The Board also threatened Ariel Gore at Hip Mama earlier this year. (Follow the link – read her reply.)

There are hundreds of Google hits for the “got breastmilk” phrase. A search comes up with a whole lot of different current uses, in both non-profit advocacy and commerce. These include:

* a variety of clothing, bumper stickers, buttons, and other items;

* collaborative art and advocacy project Project Got Breastmilk;

* the Got Breastmilk breastfeeding information website and support forum (no longer operating) which dates to 2003; and

* a Texas Lactation consultancy business I Got Breastmilk, which has been a registered URL since 2003.

So what’s the latest from the Big Cows, Big Lawyers Board? Valerie McClain of Human Milk Patent Pending reports that the California Milk Processor Board applied for a trademark on the term “Got Breastmilk?” on September 9, 2008:

Two registrations: #77565484 and 77565459.

Written on the registrations are, “G & S [Goodes & Services]: promoting awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies.


The Board has absolutely no commercial interest in promoting breastfeeding. Promoting breastfeeding would, in fact, be in direct conflict their commercial interests.

So why do you think an advertiser for the infant formula and cow’s milk industry is just now trying to trademark a term that has been in common use amongst breastfeeding advocates and supporters for years?

I call shenanigans.


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

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. I hope someone with standing to challenge goes after them strongly. If Heinlein writing about a therapeutic waterbed in Stranger in a Strange Land was enough to block the granting of either a patent or a trademark to Charles Hall and any later manufacturer of waterbeds, surely all those existing examples of prior art should do the same?

  2. In my blog I wrote “registration” regarding the California Milk Processor Board’s application for registration. I should have written serial numbers. They do not yet own the mark, “Got Breastmilk?” One can protest a registration of a trademark (there is a fee, of course) but I am not sure that anyone can protest an application. Will the US trademark office accept this mark? I would think not but stranger things have happened. Our US Patent Office has accepted a variety of patents claiming ownership of specific components of human milk or their gene constructs. Nestle is one of several companies that has staked such claims and had the US Patent Office (European Patent Office) accept their claims. So maybe the dairy and infant formula companies are planning a future marketing endeavor–the infant formula with “Real” human milk components!!!! Oops not sure I can use the word “Real” because its a Nestle word. Who would think that words in our language are owned? But who would ever think that components of human milk could be owned?

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