Duck, Duck, Suit: One SF Duck Tour Sues Another Over Trademarked Quack


In November of last year, the SF Weekly published a cover story on the all-out duck fight going on between the city's rival amphibious tours, Bay Quackers and Ride the Ducks. Bay Quackers is the smaller, locally owned business that's been around about five years; Ride the Ducks belongs to the bible-kissing, Georgia-based corporate monolith, Herschend Entertainment Company, which owns duck tours, aquariums, and theme parks nationwide (including Dollywood!). 

Herschend has been in business since 1950, and in that time it has certainly managed to ruffle a few feathers with trademarks that owners of other duck tours say are absurd.

In 2001, Ride the Ducks trademarked not only a duck-billed noisemaker, "the Wacky Quacker," but also the sound of the quack in conjunction with the tours.

In 2005 in Philadelphia, Ride the Ducks attempted to sue its smaller competitor, Super Ducks, in federal court over trademark infringement of the Wacky Quacker. The judge found in favor of Super Ducks, citing that the Wacky Quacker was not distinctive enough to qualify for trademark protection.

Despite that ruling, in February of last year Ride the Ducks began sending cease and desist orders to John Scannell, owner of Bay Quackers, informing him that Ride the Ducks had trademarked the quacking noise in conjunction with the tours. Scannell hired a copyright lawyer and kept his tours quacking. On May 19, Ride the Ducks filed a lawsuit in San Francisco's Northern District Court.

"Bay Quacker's use of Ride the Ducks' registered sound mark is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or to deceive the public as to the source of the Bay Quackers' good and services," the complaint states. It also alleges trademark infringement and unfair competion, and seeks an injunction.

This suit is different than the one in Philadelphia, according to sales and marketing manager Bob Salmon, who talked to the SF Weekly back in November, because it's over the quack sound, and not the Wacky Quacker itself.

That's some pretty weak ducksauce.

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