Subway has come under scrutiny for lying about the size of its Footlong subs, one of the sandwich maker’s most famous products. We have all heard the commercials “$5 Footlong!”, but it turns out the famous sandwich might be a hoax.
In 2013, an Australian customer upset over the size of a Footlong they had bought measured the sandwich and took photos using a smartphone. Photos of an 11-inch Footlong eventually went viral, and put Subway into a difficult position with customers around the world. The Footlong was a lie, and sandwich lovers everywhere were devastated. After a photo of the deceptive sandwich hit the internet, two New Jersey men filed a lawsuit against Subway seeking damages.
An attorney involved in the case went to 17 Subway shops in New Jersey to measure Footlong sandwiches. According to the attorney, Subway did not carry 12-inch sandwiches. In an attempt to defend itself from litigation and criticism, Subway responded that its Footlong sub was meant to be a descriptive trademark for its most famous sandwich, and not a measurement of length. Subway fans were not pleased, and many started bringing tape measures to lunch. Some customers filed lawsuits. Customers involved in the lawsuits asked Subway to be honest about the size of its Footlong sandwich.
Subway has finally settled a class action lawsuit by agreeing to measure its sandwiches in front of customers and to pay the legal fees of plaintiffs.
An important lesson can be learned from the Subway debacle. Trademarks are how customers identify certain products and businesses. Subway’s famous Footlong was known around the world as being a 12-inch sub sandwich. Customers were willing to enter lawsuits when they found out Footlongs were 11-inches.
When trademarked goods are stolen or harmed, the survival of a business can be threatened. The Subway example is one of many we hope to cover for future blog posts.
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