Cheesehead company to make legal challenge against anti-cheese billboard

CREATED Sep 26, 2011 - UPDATED: Sep 26, 2011

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Click on the video link to see an archived version of this story from WTMJ sister station NBC26 in Green Bay.

ST. FRANCIS - The head of the company that makes cheeseheads says they have asked their legal team to contact a non-profit group that is putting up a billboard in Wisconsin about the dangers of eating cheese.

The group Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine has taken out an ad to be placed on a  billboard near Highway 41 in De Pere.

The ad has a photo of the "Grim Reaper" that says "Warning: Cheese Can Sack Your Health" followed by words "Fat.  Cholesterol.  Sodium."

"(We're) getting our attorney on the phone to find out how quickly they could get in touch with that organization to get them to pull down that advertisement, because they're illegally using Foamation intellectual property in an ad," Ralph Bruno of Foamation in St. Francis told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.

"We did not license them to use the likeness of a cheesehead hat in any way, shape or form."

A lawyer for the group tells Newsradio 620 WTMJ that they are not trying to impinge upon the copyright, but use the cheesehead as a spoof in their attempt to educate the public about the dangers of eating too much cheese.

"We were aware before we put up the billboard that the cheesehead is a copyrighted thing.  If we were in the business of selling souvenirs to Packers fans, we would be violating the copyright of Foamation which owns the copyright to the cheesehead.  We're not doing that.," claimed Dan Kinburn, general counsel of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  "We're engaged in free speech."

"It's a parody.  We're not denigrating the cheesehead.  We just want people to understand that by choosing a diet that's high in meat and high in cheese, they're choosing a diet that's going to lead to illness and death."

Bruno said he got a call from a farmer who saw the billboard.

"Apparently it was already up on Saturday.  He was kind of disappointed in it, and he felt the need to call Foamation, the manufacturer of the cheesehead and find out what was going on.  I said, 'Gosh, I hadn't heard anything about it.'  Surely, we wouldn't be licensing anybody to use it at all."

The group, based in Washington, D.C., pushes for people to use a vegetarian diet.

It also asked the mayor of Green Bay, Jim Schmitt, to place warning labels on cheesy foods with high fat content that are served during Packers games at Lambeau Field.

He called the request "kind of silly."