Internet-based content streaming providers have been a thorn in the side of the major TV networks for the last few years. Streaming technology has made it possible for viewers to do their own thing, without regard for the networks’ advertising systems. Lately, the legal implications of this controversial technology have been the focus of much attention. In fact, now there is a new twist in the legal battles. Trademark attorneys have now become involved in some of the newest battles.
The newest development involves alleged trademark infringement among two of the most brazen startups, Filmon and Aereo. Both of these companies provide streaming TV via the internet, through the use of mini antennas that deliver content from broadcasters like ABC, NBC, and CBS to online subscribers. As if both of these companies didn’t already have enough legal troubles raining down on them from the major networks, they have now hired trademark attorneys and started suing each other.
Filmon.com has marketed streaming TV services through a product called Win-TV-Aero-m. Hauppauge, a company that makes mini TV antennas, transferred the rights to its trademark registration for the mark “Aero” to Filmon on February 6, 2013. According to the law suit filed on February 7, 2013, the next day, Filmon alleges superior rights to the trademark “Aero” and that Aereo’s trademark registration for “Aereo” is invalid.
Filmon’s trademark attorneys argue that Aereo, which used to be called Bamboon, has tried to unfairly capitalize on the name Aero, and create a similar sounding and confusing knockoff. The earliest use of “Aero” according to the complaint, was in January of 2011, at a trade show in Las Vegas. Then, in October of 2011, Bamboon filed a service mark application for “Aereo,” and changed the name of its company to Aereo.
The use of Aereo has apparently been getting under the skin of Filmon and their trademark attorneys for some time, but it came to a head when Filmon received a letter from Aereo in mid-January, 2013. The letter alleged that Filmon, and its owner Alkiviadis David, and partner company “Aereokiller” were infringing their “Aereo” trademark, and demanded they cease using the name Aero. As a result of the cease-and-desist letter, Filmon’s trademark attorneys promptly responded with a law suit against Aero. Of course, one of the fundamentals of trademark law is that you should not assert trademark infringement until you know you were the first to use the trademark.
But the lines are a little blurred as far as who has the right to the term Aero or Aereo. As stated above, Filmon has a major business partner known as Aereokiller, LLC. Apparently, this name was created as a direct challenge to Aereo, as a way of stating their superiority to Aereo. One wonders at what point they began consulting their trademark attorneys and, if consulted, what strategy they had in mind when making this decision.
In any event, the trademark suit between them may become moot if the major TV networks win the copyright infringement suits. In light of their mutual foes, they may want to spend less on their trademark attorneys and invest together in defeating the lawsuits by the major networks.