Olive Garden reviewer fends off legal threat over his 'All Of Garden' blog
Vincent (Vino) Malone thought he had a pretty good relationship with the folks at Olive Garden.
"So for me to wake up one day and get a cease-and-desist from their legal department was really shocking," the L.A. blogger told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.
Malone runs the website All Of Garden, which is dedicated to reviews and other content related to the U.S. restaurant chain.
He's been blogging at AllOfGarden.com since 2014, but last week the chain's parent company Darden Corporation sent him a letter accusing him of violating the Olive Garden trademark.
"I mean, I describe the food as being from Olive Garden, but I don't say that I'm an Olive Garden website. I don't use any sort of search engine optimization tricks to make people think that my site is the Olive Garden's website or anything like that," Malone said.
"I have kind of a unique style that wouldn't really fit in with very many corporate websites."
Some of his reviews, for example, come in the form of poems. He read The Rime of the Ancient Marinara for As It Happens' listeners.
Malone started the blog with the goal of eating every kind of pasta Olive Garden has to offer over the course of 49 days.
He's since branched off into Olive Garden-related side projects, like All Love Garden: 50 First Plates, during which he went on 50 first dates at the restaurant.
"When I pitched the idea to my friends before I posted the blog, they said it would be tough to find that many women who would want to go on a date with me at all and even more so when I mentioned it would be taking place at the Olive Garden," he said.
"But it actually wasn't that hard and I got lots of responses and I had a lot of fun, a lot of great dates."
After he got the letter from Darden, Malone took to Reddit's legal advice forum to find out how much trouble he was in. A number of people came to his defence, including the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation.
So Malone wrote Darden back to inform them that he would not comply.
His letter to firstname.lastname@example.org begins: "Mr. Forcements — may I call you Branden?" and ends with a request for the company respond in the form of a limerick.
Darden has since backed off, saying the whole thing was a technical misunderstanding. An Olive Garden spokesperson told Gizmodo Malone's blog "was flagged through automated means and the letter was generated."
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"I could easily see it going badly for smaller sites or people who aren't capable of generating interest on the internet and receiving kind of a grassroots blowback from the internet community," Malone said.
"It makes me wonder if maybe we should look at trademark law and the influence larger companies can have because they can just send out these, you know, threats to people, and I think 99 per cent of the time people are just going to comply rather than risk a lawsuit or just the trouble and strife and money."
Still, his affection for the restaurant has not waned.
"It's not supposed to be like an expensive fancy place that you go to have a cuisine experience," he said.
"It's really more about the atmosphere, the price point they're targetting, the kind of je ne sais quoi of having as much food as you can possibly get. It's just a hospitable place where they treat you very well."
And while Darden never did send Malone his requested limerick, the blogger has penned his own.