A strange press release landed in my inbox today: a joint release from Scotts MiracleGro and TerraCycle—a short one—just a paragraph loaded with legalities and quotes that sounded as if they had been delivered through clenched teeth. The release addressed a settlement of the lawsuit Scotts filed against TerraCycle earlier this year, claiming trademark infringement and other goodies.
“We recognize that Scotts filed this lawsuit based on a legitimate need to uphold the accuracy of advertising claims and protect its trademark rights,” said Tom Szaky, TerraCycle’s founder and CEO. “We also regret certain statements that were made about Scotts in the heat of litigation. Now that the parties have resolved their differences, TerraCycle is looking forward to providing consumers with an array of garden and lawn care products in the marketplace.”
Of course, I believe Tom Szaky said this about as much as I believe I could grow a blue rose. These quotes were never delivered at all. They were manufactured in the Scott’s MiracleGro Corporate Communications department, and certainly run by dozens of lawyers, and probably run by the Vice President of Hoo Ha and the Vice President of Wickety-Wack.
Of course, TerraCycle’s PR people certainly had input on Szaky’s quote, probably writing it up under legal duress in the first place and then emailing it over, and then there were probably conference calls, and people rolling their eyes across conference room tables, and a late night last night while everyone hashed this out some more, and maybe early calls to reporters or whatever. I’ve been around those conference room tables. I know all too well how this works.
The sad thing? We’re never going to get the whole story unless someone gets on the journalistic stick, and maybe we won’t even know the truth then. Was TerraCycle really in the wrong? Or did Scotts MiracleGro throw enough money at the problem to make it go away? After all, in the same press release, Jim King, Scotts spokesperson, talked about “protection of the valuable Miracle-Gro brand.”
Valuable as a business, sure. But I think it’s equally valuable to be a steward of the land we choose to garden or not garden. I think it’s equally valuable not to dump a bunch of poison into potting soil and sell it to people who don’t know any better.
I say this even though I have caught people I love with lots of bags of MiracleGro potting soil on their decks. Ahem. You know who you are. And you know I would prefer you’re not eating poisoned vegetables.
As part of the agreement announced today, TerraCycle has to do the following:
- TerraCycle has agreed that it no longer will make advertising claims of product superiority to Miracle-Gro products to ensure accuracy in its advertising. More specifically, TerraCycle has agreed that it will not claim that its products are better than, or more effective than, or as good as Miracle-Gro products. In addition, TerraCycle may not claim that any independent tests or university studies were conducted to support any such claims.
- TerraCycle has also agreed to change its packaging so it will not use a green and yellow color combination, for which Miracle-Gro owns a trademark registration. This change will be made to avoid any possible confusion with Miracle-Gro’s trade dress.
- The court order and the settlement agreement will be posted on TerraCycle’s www.suedbyscotts.com Web page. TerraCycle also agreed to phase out this site after three months.
I’ve been invited to address additional questions to a particular spokesperson at Scotts. I’m considering making that call. Are there any questions you would like answered? I’m happy to ask…and write…on behalf of my commenters.