Comic-Con has become a big deal. Multiple conventions are held annually throughout the country. Thousands of people attend. But the San Diego installment of the event wants to make sure that everyone knows that it is the real, original Comic-Con and is taking action to do so.
Trademark attorneys can be pretty creative and Sony’s recent trademark infringement suit against Bridgestone Tires is a great example. Sony is suing Bridgestone for among other things, trademark infringement. The basis for the lawsuit is Bridgestone’s use of the same actor in one of their ads that Sony had previously used in their PlayStation 3 marketing campaign. Sony says that Bridgestone improperly infringed upon their “trademark” character “Kevin Butler”. Sony did not register a trademark for the Kevin Butler character and has not even filed a trademark application for Butler. Sony recently settled its claims against the actor that played Kevin Butler, but the lawsuit with Bridgestone continues.
In a recent blog post, we discussed The Hobbit producers’ trademark dispute with Global Asylum, the makers of the upcoming mockbuster movie “Age of the Hobbits”. The Hobbit producers claim that Asylum’s reference to hobbits in their movie title infringes rights under a trademark registration. Asylum countered claiming that the term hobbits refers to a recently discovered human sub-species and as such, they are entitled to use the term under the legal doctrine of fair use. In an effort to bolster their infringement position, The Hobbit producers have commissioned an interesting study aimed at showing a likelihood of confusion, which is one of the legal requirements to establish trademark infringement. (For more details on the story, see The Hollywood Reporter article by clicking here. story here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/hobbit-trademark-lawsuit-producers-enlist-394685).
The hugely successful movie franchise, The Lord of the Rings, picks up again when director Peter Jackson releases The Hobbit on December 14th, 2012. The profitability of the movies and all things related to Middle Earth are not lost on others looking to ride the momentum created by the new release. Global Asylum is a movie production company that specializes in “mockbusters”, low-budget movies that have similar titles and storylines to blockbuster movies and are released around the same time. This time around, Global Asylum intends to cash in on The Hobbit frenzy by releasing a film entitled Age of the Hobbits, three days before the release of the Jackson film (see story). So what’s the deal with these mockbusters? Is this fair game or foul play? Trademark law may be the deciding voice.
The previous Trademark Access blog post discussed a trademark infringement suit between two baseball glove manufacturers. Rawlings Sporting Goods sponsors the “Rawlings Gold Glove Award” baseball glove manufacturers. Rawlings Sporting Goods sponsors the “Rawlings Gold Glove Award” and owns a US trademark registration for that phrase. Rawlings brought suit against Wilson Sporting Goods claiming that Wilson was creating confusion in the marketplace by outfitting a professional baseball player with a gold glove and thereby infringing on Rawlings’s trademark. In a trademark infringement case like this one, one of the major factors that a court would look at is how similar the goods associated with the marks are to each other. If the goods are unrelated, it is less likely there will be any confusion about the source of goods and less likely there will be infringement.
If you are a baseball fan, you are probably familiar with the Gold Glove award that is given annually to one player at each position for outstanding field play. But did you know that the Gold Glove is not actually given out by Major League Baseball, but is awarded by the baseball glove manufacturer Rawlings? In fact, Rawlings is the registered owner of US Trademark Registration No. 1,945,584 which covers the phrase “Rawlings Gold Glove Award.