To backtrack for a second, on Feb 24th, 2020, I received an email from Instagram saying a post of mine (from 2017) had been removed for infringing on the trademark rights of a third party. It didn’t say who the third party was, but based on the photo/post (below) I assumed it was Walmart, owners of the Great Value brand. 24 hours later my entire account was offline. Attempts at logging in were met with an error message saying my account was disabled for violating terms.
Not knowing where to turn I reached out my contacts at a Walmart PR agency I’ve worked with before – but they were just as confused as I was as to why my post was reported. With their help Walmart even reported to Instagram that they had no problem with the post, yet Instagram still refused to release it, or my account.
Instagram, for whatever reason, did not make it easy to share the information on who reported my post. Was it a scam? Was it legit? I had no idea. But if it wasn’t Walmart then I had no idea who to appeal my case to. I spent hours filling out Instagram appeal forms over and over again disputing the takedown and looking for answers. I set ads to run on Facebook, because I read doing so would unlock a support chat to talk with an actual human (it did). I even talked to someone on the phone. I tried every thing I could think of until one day, after a month of jumping through these hoops, Instagram finally shared the below information with me:
Rights Owner: [Mondelez International] Email: [firstname.lastname@example.org] Trademark: [Oreo]
Which, my immediate reaction was equal parts WTF and THANK GOD! Obviously this was a mistake. There’s a cookie on the package that looks like an Oreo, but WTF does that have to do me infringing on their trademark rights? If Mondelez (the company that owns Oreo) has a problem with thisGreat Value spread certainly they should bring it up with them, not three year old posts on Instagram. I initially took this information as a huge sigh of relief. Like Walmart, I’m in touch with contacts who run Oreo PR and thought for sure I could clear this mess up right away. Yet here we are, 3 weeks later, and much like with Instagram I’m finding it impossible to get clarity or answers from anyone. As it stands, Oreo’s own Twitter account has been back and forth with me a few times on this, and I have another contact who told me that Mondelez’s legal team is looking into the matter. But I don’t feel like I’m any closer to a resolution here.
I assume there is a reason someone at Mondelez would feel the need to restrict and report this product, but why limit it to old Instagram posts? Mine wasn’t the only one, I know @snackcellar had his photo of this product also reported and removed. And I’m sure there would be more had I not warned others to take down their posts. As far as I know Walmart doesn’t even know of a case by Mondelez against their spread. So what’s the deal? TBD. In the mean time, if anyone reading this has any insight that might help me – information that supports my defense or even Mondelez’s right to report my photo – or a contact at Mondelez, please let me know!