Volkswagen has long enjoyed a reputation as a "goodwilled" car manufacturer (if indeed there can be such a creature). From its cheeky 'think small' ad campaigns of the 1960's on through the company's 'Fahrvergnugen' mantra of the 1980's, VW always seemed like a company that didn't take itself too seriously.

All of which makes Don Stewart's story a little puzzling. Stewart, a small-time, Homewood, Alabama artist known for his whimsical ball-point pen drawings has caught the eye of the automaker's legal team. Apparently, a Utah-based law firm representing VW is demanding Stewart stop selling the piece seen above because it infringes upon the Beetle's "trade dress."

In a cease-and-desist letter received January 6, the German firm accuses Stewart of seeking to "capitalize on and profit from the goodwill and reputation of VWoA by misappropriating VWoA's registered trademarks and trade dress in its products." It further demands to learn the amount of money that Stewart has made off of the drawing, the names and addresses of those he sold the artwork to, how long the Beetle piece has been on offer, the number sold, and contact information of the suppliers who helped Stewart reproduce the image. Further, it is demanding that he turn over any unsold examples for destruction, as well as 25-percent gross revenue from sales of the image the last five years (a figure Stewart estimates at all of $600). The drawing in question was used in a compendium, "The Visual Humor of Don Stewart" which had a print run of all of 2,000 books, of which about 1,000 are out in the world.

Now that, friends, is 'thinking small.'

Check out Stewart's artwork here.

[Source: The Birmingham News]

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