'Viva Viagra' Missile Infringed on Pfizer Marks
(CN) - A Long Island man infringed on Pfizer's trademark by towing a 20-foot replica missile with "Viva Viagra" painted on its side through midtown Manhattan, eventually parking it in front of the drugmaker's 42nd Street headquarters, a federal judge ruled.
After the escapade, Arye Sachs sent Pfizer an email boasting that the missile would return, this time with two models "riding" it and distributing condoms.
Sachs, a 48-year-old former Israeli Army sergeant, pulled the stunt to promote his company Jetangel.com, which sells outdoor advertising on decommissioned military equipment. He distributed pamphlets about his business to onlookers, even leaving one with Pfizer.
Sachs is the company's owner and self-proclaimed "Chief Fun Officer."
But if Sachs meant for the stunt to be funny, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said, "Pfizer did not get the joke."
The drug giant sent two cease-and-desist letters to Sachs, who proceeded to display the Viagra-branded missile at an adult entertainment exposition in New Jersey.
Sachs issued a press release announcing that he would take the Viagra missile on a 12-city tour, where he would distribute condoms bearing images of presidential candidates.
Pfizer slapped him with a lawsuit for trademark infringement, saying the use of Viagra's slogan on the missile could confuse consumers, who might think it was an ad for the popular impotence drug.
The judge issued a temporary restraining order against Sachs the next day.
Sachs argued that he had a free-speech right to use the Viagra marks. He also claimed that Viagra is not entitled to protections, because it has become so famous that it's now generic. But he offered no proof to back up his claim.
Judge Pauley said Pfizer's "active policing efforts" refute the idea that the marks are generic. And he said Sachs couldn't offer any evidence of widespread industry use.
Sachs proclaimed that people "have the understanding that we are talking about something that is fun." The judge disagreed.
"Defendants' midday sojourn with a missile to Pfizer's world headquarters traded on the fame and reputation of Viagra. At that time, Defendants advertised their own services while displaying the Viagra-branded missile - using the Viagra Marks for their own commercial gain. 'This is precisely the use that is reserved by the Lanham Act to the owner of the mark,'" Judge Pauley wrote.
Viagra has worldwide sales of $16 billion.
Sachs was detained by the Secret Service last October while driving around Washington, D.C., with other fake missiles, including the "Obama-Oh Mama" and the "Viva McCain."