Exclusive: Navy Issues Cease and Desist Over Trident Use on ‘No Ordinary Dog’ Book Cover

May 2, 2020Matt Fratus
coffee or die no ordinary dog

Will Chesney, a 13-year Navy SEAL veteran who served as both an assaulter and dog handler, recently co-authored “No Ordinary Dog: My Partner From the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid” alongside journalist Joe Layden. The book tells the true story of Chesney’s military working dog, Cairo, and their career together through training, combat, and retirement. St. Martin’s Press published the much-anticipated memoir on April 21, 2020. It became an instant best-seller.

In a letter dated April 21, the same day the book published, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a cease and desist order to St. Martin’s Press over the use of the U.S. Navy SEAL trident pin on the cover of the book. The SEAL trident is awarded to Navy sailors after graduation from the notoriously difficult SEAL selection and training pipeline, which includes the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course (commonly referred to as BUD/S), and the SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).

Coffee or Die no ordinary dog
The cover of “No Ordinary Dog” without the Navy SEAL trident pin. Photo courtesy of Will Chesney.

The letter from the Navy comes after Chesney and Layden submitted the book to the Department of Defense’s Office of Pre-Publication Review for approval that all service members who signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) must go through. The book was cleared for publishing after an 18-month review period. Despite the rigorous process, the cease and desist order states that the use of the Navy SEAL trident constitutes trademark infringement. 

On the ninth anniversary of the historic raid that resulted in the death of Usama Bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Chesney wrote in a statement provided to Coffee or Die that he doesn’t want this fight, but rather wants to work diligently to get the issue resolved. 

cairo no ordinary dog navy
A redacted copy of the Navy copyright notice provided to Coffee or Die.

“I wrote ‘No Ordinary Dog’ to honor the men and K9s with whom I served and to tell Cairo’s story,” Chesney told Coffee or Die. “I was disheartened by the request from the Navy to remove the trident from the cover of our book — especially after we received clearance from the Department of Defense to publish.”

Chesney earned his SEAL trident in BUD/S class 246, and feels that Cairo earned his as well. “In my eyes, Cairo will always have earned his trident. The trident is a symbol of who we are and the SEAL brotherhood.”

“This project is the culmination of four years of collaborative hard work between Will Chesney, Joe Layden, St. Martin’s Press, and my company, The Reserve Label,” Mark Semos said in a statement exclusively provided to Coffee or Die. “From the start, Will was adamant that the book reflect his love and respect not only for his teammates and his dog Cairo, but for the US Navy. We’re proud of the project and of the light it shines on the excellent work the US Navy has done during the GWOT.”  

Screenshot of an email sent from Will Chesney to the DoD addressed as “Cairo The Dog.” Photo courtesy of The Reserve Label.

Chesney wrote to the Department of Defense in an email addressed as “Cairo The Dog,” requesting that they reevaluate the trademark infringements of the trident on the book. However, they do intend to respect the request from both the Navy and the DOD.  

“I hope the Navy will reconsider, Cairo and Will deserve to have the SEAL Trident on their book,” Semos said. “The most important issue for us is that everyone looking at the book understands that Will was a SEAL, was on the Bin Laden Raid and was Cairo’s handler. His naval service was exemplary, and the removal of the trident insignia from the cover of ‘No Ordinary Dog’ is over an alleged trademark infringement, and has nothing to do with his service to this country.”

Matt Fratus
Matt Fratus

Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.

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