Half-Baked Doughboy

Pillsbury poppin' mad over trademark tussle; geeks retaliate by cutting junk-food intake.

Trademark disputes sank to an all-time low this month when The Pillsbury Company fired off cease-and-desist letters to the likes of Columbia University and Sun Microsystems.

Seems Pillsbury has owned a trademark on the phrase "bake-off" since 1949, and it doesnt want anyone using the term to describe events at which software engineers test their programs against each other for compatibility, bugs, efficiency, etc.

Indignant geeks retort that Pillsbury failed to police use of the "bake-off" trademark, as required by law, and the term has passed into the public domain. Furthermore, they point out, its unlikely that consumers will confuse cake-cooking competitions with code combats. Many programmers have called for boycotts of Pillsbury brands Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Toaster Strudel, Jenos and Totinos frozen pizzas. One anonymous rogue suggests bombarding Pillsbury with complaints about bad muffins, hoping to collect lots of $1.68 refund checks.

Next, we suppose, Kraft Foods will get after X-ray crystallographers who use "shake and bake" software.