September 16, 2004
OU: ‘Kosher’ Thong Is Wrong
Some might have found the joke funny, but the Orthodox Union (OU) isn't laughing. In May, Castaic resident Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik started YidGear.com , an online T-shirt shop that features humorous Jewish slogans -- some mellow, some crude. One of the more sexually provocative designs featured the well-known OU kosher symbol with the phrase "Eat me -- I'm kosher," available on T-shirts, boxers and thongs.
"I didn't think there would be any competition and that it wouldn't damage their trademark at all," said Brynjegard-Bialik, who sent the design to OU to make sure everything was, um, kosher.
"They were willing to consider it.... I took that as potential approval," he said.
However, OU has very strict controls on how its symbol is used, even in parody. The organization objected to the use of its symbol on a "Gefilte" fish car plaque, a spoof on the Jesus fish.
Baruch Cywiak of the OU's Trademark Compliance Department objected to the YidGear design the moment it crossed his desk.
"If we're going to allow people to use this trademark in anyway they wish ... it's going to dilute the value of the mark," he said.
Cywiak said he found some of the designs on YidGear to be funny, but found the OU kosher design to be "in poor taste."
"Humor should not be used in such fashion as to harm something else. And in this case there would be harm to us," he said.
Brynjegard-Bialik complied with the OU's decision and recently removed the product from his site. The graphic designer said he was disappointed in the OU's response, and is thinking of a way to retool the design that doesn't infringe on any kosher agency's trademark.
"All of these shirts are in fun. That one is certainly a parody," he said. "My intention is to not hurt, attack or demean anyone, but to provide an outlet for us to enjoy being Jewish."