JibJab Sues Toyota For Some Dead Presidents

JibJab Toyota lawsuitToyota Motor USA seems to be in a stealing mood. I’ll let JibJab’s official complaint for damages explain why:

“Toyota recently ran a commercial promoting its 2011 President’s Day sale, which incorporated elements identical (to) and/or substantially indistinguishable from JibJab’s Founding Father’s Rap and Starring You Tap Dance videos.”

The TV spot in question was produced by Hoffman Lewis, who simply shoulda known better. The whole dancing president thing certainly feels JibJab-esque, but wait until the end for the little “Ends Soon” tag – it’s a blatant rip. Watch for yourselves, ladies and gentlemen of the jury….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYfMLFjMjgs

(Full disclosure – I worked a JibJab many years ago, but that’s not how I discovered this.)

7 Comments

  1. Bwakathaboom.com July 27, 2011

    Tough call. Jib Jab doesn’t own the presidents and you can’t copyright or trademark the “vague look” of something.

    I think it boils down to that end logo. If Jib Jab has their logo properly trademarked then there’s a case here.

    The contracted agency was probably told “make it look Jib Jabby” but wasn’t clever enough to introduce their own new unique elements. Raising the question – why not just hire Jib Jab?

  2. Author

    I agree – that end logo put the nail in Toyota’s coffin. It illustrates that the creators of the ad studied, quite carefully, the way a JibJab animation looks and feels. And then they created a look-a-like that would lead many, if not most, viewers to believe that it was created by JibJab. And that’s where the trouble starts.

  3. Yeah, they were definitely given a “style guide” to “reference”. At the very least, it really illustrates the quality disparity between a JibJab handled product/project and a half-assed looking product by copycats. Yikes. Based on their (HL) work, it looks like they really don’t have much of an animation based background, more camera work/editing stuff seems like, so I guess the the client is more to blame for the lack luster rip than the production house (HL). Either way, a shame.

  4. I watched and said this is not JibJab. I wouldnt have made a connection until the end. It wasnt the logo alone, but the mouth move topped it. Just seeing the logo drop i am not sure i would think JibJab. Once the mouths moved with the logo i could see if it wasnt JibJab it may be copy. The problem is does JibJab own the rights to big heads with cut away jaws (the courts will have to decide). Granted these heads were more 3D and JibJab are more 2D, but was it a blatant copy infringe? Iam not sure i would say yes.

  5. anonymous July 28, 2011

    I agree, tough call, no one owns a president’s image and no one owns an animation style . It is obvious where they got their influence from and it should be acknowledged

  6. Stephen M. Levinson August 5, 2011

    @ Bwakathaboom.com

    You can most certainly trademark “Look and Feel” its a part of the copyright/trademark and is easy to sue for. This is an easy win for Jib Jab.

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