In January 2011, a user known only as “Randall” uploaded a video to YouTube under the title “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.” The video used footage from a National Geographic documentary about the honey badger (an absurdly fierce creature immune to cobra venom), which “Randall” had redubbed with profane commentary featuring lines such as “honey badger don’t care” and “honey badger don’t give a sh*t.” The video went viral, and has racked up over 75 million views to date, as well as permeating pop culture. Christopher Z. Gordon, a/k/a “Randall”, has sold merchandise featuring the phrase “honey badger don’t care,” and astutely copyrighted the video narration and registered the phrase as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Since obtaining his registrations, Gordon has initiated lawsuits accusing major retailers such as Target and Walmart of infringing his copyright and trademarks. Gordon is not asserting claims of ownership over the term “honey badger”, just his narration and the takeaway phrases such as “honey badger don’t care” and “honey badger don’t give a sh*t.” While some of the retailers, such as Walmart, used the exact expression “honey badger don’t care” on T-shirts, other retailers, such as Hot Topic, indirectly referenced these lines by selling T-shirts saying “Be like the honey badger. So nasty. It doesn’t give a $%@#!” The majority of these cases are currently ongoing, and the retailers are fighting back, claiming that the phrase “honey badger don’t care” is ornamental and therefore not entitled to trademark protection. These cases demonstrate how important it is to register intellectual property as early as possible, as it provides an effective weapon for enforcement. While time will tell how each of these cases will be resolved, all parties would surely agree that….the real honey badger don’t care.