Bad Ideas, Intellectual Property, Law Schools

Did Cornell Law School Violate IP Law with its ‘Nard Dog’ Ad?

Cornell Law School Andy Bernard The Office Ed Helms.jpgCornell’s use of Andy “The Nard Dog” Bernard to promote its law school was a questionable decision. Alumni are saying it makes their toolish reputation even worse, and some are calling for someone at the law school to be fired.

After news outlets like TMZ and Entertainment Weekly picked up our story, the school rethought the promotional item. (Even though over 35% of our readers thought it was a brilliant idea.)

One problem with the ad is that Bernard is a total douche. From CLS alumnus METAezra:

For those of you who don’t quite understand the problem with this (beyond the fact that the ‘Nard Dog has no ties to the Law School), Andy Bernard is like the uncle in your family that nobody quite likes. You can laugh at him in the presence of good friends, and smirk at him in the presence of polite company. But you don’t bring him up unless asked.

There may be a much bigger problem with the ad, though. It may reveal that the law school doesn’t have a very good handle on intellectual property law…

We asked IP law professor Eric Goldman whether Cornell would need permission from NBC to use Andy Bernard of The Office in their advertising. He told us:

Yes. They probably need permission from Ed Helm as well. The only countervailing consideration would be if Cornell took the position that the website usage wasn’t advertising but was editorial content. I don’t think that argument would be plausible given their specific implementation, which was fairly clearly promotional to me.

Since Ed Helms is an Oberlin grad, we imagine he may be anti-Ivy.

Cornell has not responded to our multiple requests for comment. Apparently, their spokespeople graduated from the Cor-not School of Media Relations.

Since Cornell refuses to speak to us, we can’t tell you whether the school had permission from NBC and Helms to use Andy Bernard’s character. If they did get permission, it may have cost them a pretty penny — a questionable investment.

Associate dean of students Richard Geiger did speak to Inside Higher Education last night, though:

“About half the people love it and half the people say ‘What is this about?'” [said Geiger.]

But internally, Geiger said that people hope they are sending a positive message — not about the character, but about the need for perspective. “Here’s a law school that’s not taking itself too seriously,” he said.

And not taking IP law too seriously?

The various features on the law school’s home page are rotated around quite a bit, so don’t expect it to stay there much longer. “He’s about ready to go down,” said Geiger.

Indeed, Andy Bernard’s smug face was up on the Cornell website last night, but is gone today. Is that how they teach law at Cornell? If at first you don’t secure IP rights, remove the image and hope that nobody noticed.

Somebody at the Law School Needs to be Fired [METAezra]
Cornell Law: Lady Gaga or Gone Gaga? [Inside Higher Ed]
‘Office’ Star — The Face of Cornell Law [Too Fab/TMZ]
Cornell Law School: Ever Heard of It? [Cornell Daily Sun]

Earlier: Adventures in Law School Advertising: Cornell. Ever heard of it?

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