If you were around in the 1970s when Jaws was first released, you probably thought twice about going into the ocean after seeing the thriller. Even younger generations recognize the iconic shark and have a little fear in the back of their minds. Despite or maybe because of the fear Jaws incited, the movie was a box office hit, becoming the first movie to surpass $100 million in domestic theater ticket sales. With wide viewership and an impact on beach-going behavior, Jaws left its mark on American culture. But that was 40 years ago. Is that culture legacy still relevant? According to the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, the answer is yes.
This became a debate in 2013, when Mr. Recipe, LLC, which operates a streaming internet channel that provides cooking related content, applied for a trademark on “Jaws” and “Jaws Devour Your Hunger” in the class “entertainment, namely, streaming of audiovisual material via an Internet channel providing programming related to cooking”. The Trademark Office rejected this application based on a likelihood of confusion with the original trademark registration for the movie Jaws, which registered in the class “video recordings in all formats all featuring motion pictures.” The trademark examiner argued that consumers would make some association between the cooking channel and the Jaws movies thus requiring a rejection of Mr. Recipe’s application.
In response to this rejection, the trademark attorney for Mr. Recipe downplayed the modern recognition of the Jaws movies claiming they only obtained a “niche” level of fame. He also pointed out the differences in trademark classes between a streaming internet channel and motion pictures. The examiner didn’t buy these arguments however. The attorney then appealed the decision to the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board.
The TTAB reaffirmed the trademark examiner’s decision, stating that the Jaws movies have permeated general culture and are still parodied to this day. It also took into account the fame of the Jaws mark, instructing that famous marks are given a wider scope of protection. With its options effectively exhausted, the cooking channel will need to take another bite at naming itself.
Jaws is just too famous and culturally relevant to share trademark space with others, at least others providing some type of video or media content. If you have questions about what is or isn’t eligible for trademark protection, please contact the attorneys at Trademark Access. Let our experience protect your valuable brand.