Uncle Milton: NG’s new partner & punch line

Not only was Uncle Milton Industries — National Geographic’s new licensing partner — given a failing grade by the Better Business Bureau. The toy company — maker of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm™ — was also pilloried some years ago by Dilbert:

Dilbert, by Scott Adams (December 30, 1995)

This episode earned Uncle Milton Industries a spot in Tabberone’s Trademark & Copyright Abusers’ Hall of Shame. It also provided Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, with a few punch lines during his 2007 keynote at EclipseCon 2007. According to CRN:

Scott Adams

… Adams’ biggest laugh came when he pulled out one of the many complaint letters he’s received to demonstrate his response to a trademark-infringement nastygram. After using the phrase “ant farm” in a strip, Adams got a series of increasingly heated missives from lawyers for Uncle Milton Industries, which apparently holds a trademark on “ant farms.” They wanted an apology and retraction for his generic use of the term.

“It became clear that as long as there’s dirt and ants and glass and people who will pay money to see them pressed together, there would be money to pay the lawyer,” Adams said.

… Uncle Milton Industries is apparently still at it: Tech blog Engadget recently got a similar nastygram for its casual reference to ant farms.

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Why has National Geographic chosen to do business with Uncle Milton? As the toy leader in the science and nature category, Uncle Milton is the ideal partner to capture National Geographic’s adventurous spirit and cutting-edge exploration,” said Krista Newberry, vice president of National Geographic Licensing, in a press release.

While we assume National Geographic thoroughly vetted Uncle Milton Industries before signing this licensing deal, we still worry. Customer reviews of Uncle Milton toys on Amazon are decidedly weak, with too many reviews looking like this one:

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the money, November 17, 2010
Durability:2.0 out of 5 stars Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars
I bought this for my two older boys (8 & 6) because they love Star Wars and are interested in stars and planets. Its a cool idea except if you don’t have a perfect 12X12 room, its a waste of money. All the walls need to be flat. No windows, closets, ect. The stars and planets are very blury. Almost too hard to read. The batteries run out after an hour or so as well. They didn’t play with it again after the first night.

Comments:

Henna says:  Thank you for this review. I was going to purchase this item as a Christmas gift but decided not to after reading your post.
key2lady says:  yah I should have read the reviews before i bought it, wich i always do and I dont know why i didnt this time. I guess i was too excited by the idea. now i have to decide if I am going to take my chances or send it back.

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Brace yourself for Uncle Milton’s next wave of plastic toys — all emblazoned with the distinctive logo of the National Geographic Society.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.