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August 29, 2005

We All Scream For Copyright Infringement [2:09 pm]

Follow That Truck! Mister Softee Shows Hard Side [pdf]

It was a surveillance job that would lead to car chases through side-street labyrinths. But the chases were all at very low speeds. After all, the target this day was not some elusive spy, desperate fugitive or stealthy adulterer, but rather a lumbering white truck stopping to sell soft-serve ice cream to sugar-crazed children, all while blaring the repetitive Mister Softee jingle.

“We’re lucky,” whispered one investigator named Joe, who, like his colleagues, would give only his first name because in his line of work, he makes a lot of enemies. “It’s a good ice cream day.”

He opened a leather portfolio and began scribbling notes in a packet titled, “Mister Softee Surveillance, Queens Location.”

[...] On this job, however, the sleuths were on the trail of ice cream trucks, specifically Mister Softee look-alikes. The company hired them to identify independent trucks that it says resemble the well-known Mister Softee franchise vehicles so closely that they deceive customers.

In the past several months, the investigators say, they have gathered enough evidence against 30 operators of “rip-off trucks” in New York City and on Long Island for Mister Softee to name them as defendants in a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit that company officials say they plan to file this week in federal court in Manhattan.

They said they were preparing similar suits in Philadelphia and possibly northern New Jersey.

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