Drunk TED Talks Hit With Cease-And-Desist Over Name

By Keri Blakinger 03/13/17

 TED says the drunken parody could end up “tarnishing” its brand.

Woman performing a Drunk Ted Talk about Kim Kardashian
Still from a Drunk Ted Talk about Kim Kardashian Photo via YouTube

It’s last call for Drunk TED Talks. 

A satirical booze-based riff off the esteemed speaking series was recently slapped with a cease-and-desist letter, according to the Chicago Tribune

TED, the non-profit media organization known for hosting high-profile talks, sent the warning letter to Eric Thurm, a University of Chicago graduate who launched his parody series four years ago. 

"While we understand that you may not intend to confuse the market with regard to TED's brand, it is our position that your continued use of its trademarks and trade dress may cause the public to inaccurately assume that your events are connected to, associated with or affiliated with TED and its well-known services relating to educational conferences, workshops and seminars," reads the letter, which also says the misunderstanding could end up “tarnishing” TED's brand.

Thurm called it “funny” that the series responsible for such talks as “How to Tie Your Shoes” and “How to Use a Paper Towel” finally decided to take action. “They’ve done more than enough damage to their own brand,” he told Jezebel. “They don’t need my help.”

Thurm first debuted his comedic take on the series as a college student in the Windy City. 

“Me and a bunch of other people were kind of drunk during TEDxUChicago, and we were looking at the talks and making fun of the titles of real TED Talks,” he said. “Like, this is an incredibly stupid and pretentious and obscenely overblown way to educate people about these topics. At one point somebody said, ‘We would do a better job of teaching people about these topics if we were extremely drunk.’ And it just kind of stuck for a while.”

He started out with a house party involving actual drunk people and, after graduation, moved to Brooklyn and continued the show there. 

The 24-year-old knew legal action was always a possibility but said, “I’ve been doing this for a really long time and kind of figured that they had a sense of humor about it and weren’t going to do it before now, then why would they take action all of a sudden?”

Thurm has no plans to fight the legal request, he said on Twitter. “I am one person and not really in a position to have an extended legal beef with a $60+ million dollar organization,” he wrote, adding that he plans to rebrand and keep going.

Among the new naming suggestions are Drunk Tod Talks and Drunk Theodore Talks.

“I fucking love doing this event – no matter what it’s called – and plan to keep doing it until I die or am attacked by lawyers,” he tweeted. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.