Freelancer is taking Airtasker to court over its ‘Like A Boss’ ad campaign – but technically it’s Slim Thug that should be suing
Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
The year was 2004, and startups like Freelancer.com and Airtasker did not exist yet; actually, we had never even really used the term ‘startup’ in Australia yet. You know what phrase was being used, though? ‘Like a Boss’, all thanks to the Slim Thug song of the same name released that year by Geffen Records Inc.
You can refresh your memory here; also – slight tangent – is that a young Pharrell Williams spitting on stage with Slim Thug in the music video?
Fast forward to 2009, the year that Freelancer.com launched. This was also the year that the phrase ‘Like a Boss’ became a pop-culture staple. It was all thanks to an SNL Digital Short by The Lonely Island featuring Seth Rogen called ‘Like a Boss’, a parody of the Slim Thug original.
That parody video now has hundreds of millions of views, caused the hashtag #LikeABoss to go viral (still to this day) on platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, and has spawned over 11 million search results for ‘Like A Boss Meme’. Also, fun fact: Andy Samberg from The Lonely Island was taken to court over his use of ‘Like a Boss’.
Since then the term ‘Like a Boss’ has been used by countless brands in their daily content marketing; 4 steps to own your email strategy like a boss – just one example from Campaign Monitor in December 2015.
Which brings us to 2017, and Freelancer.com taking Airtasker to court over the use of ‘Like A Boss’ as a slogan.
The business is claiming Airtasker stole its intellectual property when now Airtasker VP of marketing Simon Reynolds was the marketing manager at Freelancer.com in 2012. Current Airtasker product manager Devadittya Banerjee was also employed by Freelancer back in 2014.
Freelancer.com claims it had been working internally on the concept to promote the use of freelancers and crowdsourcing business owners, including as an online video/TV series.
It says the “Like a Boss” concept was originally conceived by Nikki Parker in 2012, who Freelancer says was the VP of communications at Freelancer at the time. AdNews understands the idea was to act as an ongoing content platform for the business.
However according to Parker’s LinkedIn, it says she begun at Freelancer in 2013 – after Reynolds had already exited the business to begin his position at Aldi, where he worked from 2012 to 2014.
Parker tells AdNews the work was halted when she exited the business in 2014 and while she says she doesn’t remember Reynolds working directly on the series, it’s likely he was aware of it. She was adamant the pair worked together at Freelancer despite conflicting dates on LinkedIn.
“The whole company was involved in the series. We set up a studio and we were talking openly about it. It wasn’t a secret,” she says.
“I came up with the idea Like a Boss, pitched it to our CEO and we created a series. So it was surprising to see that exact slogan and concept used by Airtasker. Especially when the company had close ties with Freelancer – that raised some questions.”
Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie says: “Freelancer doesn’t take misappropriation of intellectual property lightly and we have commenced the process of litigation against Airtasker.”
In addition to the commentary, Freelancer.com also provided AdNews with a link to this video from 2013 where their Like A Boss project was originally discussed.
Cofounder of Airtasker, Tim Fung also released a statement last week in which he alleges his company received correspondence that Freelancer Ltd attempted to register a trademark for the term ‘Like A Boss’ the day after Airtasker’s marketing campaign aired.
For the record, the phrase ‘Like A Boss’ is not able to be trademarked.
Look, it sucks when someone takes an idea that may have had its origins in one company and then builds on a concept and executes it in another company. Even if just for a minute we agree this is what has happened in this situation, the question I have to ask is: if it was indeed part of a key strategy, why have we seen no progress on the project in three years?
I really don’t get how Matt Barrie doesn’t view this pursuit as a waste of time and money.
It’s a dated catchphrase now anyway and, just to reiterate, there is nothing original about it.