Trademarks in movie titles

How often do you go to the cinema or watch movies at home?

I personally love both these ways of enjoying visual stories. Especially when I have popcorn and I watch these films together with friends. A movie is a great way to live someone’s story as your own and to feel it deeply till goosebumps cover your skin. But you know how much I like digging into everything that stands behind the process of creation. We have already figured out the process of creating and registering rights to music. So, today I propose considering what makes films successful and which of the filmmaking industry representatives are registering trademarks for films.

Companies that make the most famous films shoot not just the story but also develop the brand of the film too. Accordingly, they release relevant products. The idea embodied in the film is expressed in a variety of forms. Before using the fruits of intellectual activity, they must be protected. Right holders of such famous films as Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hobbit, Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones did so – they registered trademarks of the same name, and thanks to this they were able to effectively protect their intellectual property rights from unfair infringement. Let’s analyze this in detail.


Star Wars

Lucasfilm Company is known not only for the series of films called “Star Wars”, but also for the large number of trademarks that it has registered in conjunction with its films. Protecting the main brand – “Star Wars”, the company has already filed several lawsuits. Though not all of them were successful, in most cases it helped in protecting the exclusive right of selling products called “Star Wars”. For example, in 2017, Lucasfilm Company banned the unlicensed release of a mobile application that was created based on the Star Wars board game. Lucasfilm even tried to ban US President Reagan from using Star Wars as the name of a US space program. But the attempt to ban this name was not successful (nor, by the way, was the project itself). But just imagine how confident a company with a registered trademark is, that it decides to calmly sue for infringement by the president. In addition to the main Star Wars brand, the company also registered trademarks including Chewbacca, Lightsaber, Yoda, Millennium, Falcon, Darth, Vader, Stormtrooper, The Force, BB-8 and Empire strikes back, which allowed them to effectively protect their interests as the rights holder.


Harry Potter

The movie universe based on the works of JK Rowling is also famous for a large number of court cases concerning trademark violation and copyright infringement. Cases concerning trademarks mainly affect souvenirs, which were made based on the universe of Harry Potter. In 2004, Warner Brothers through a court order banned a popular gift shop in Los Angeles from selling clothes and other products with Harry Potter logos, because they infringed on Warner Brothers’ trademark rights. Nine years later, in 2013, the company returned to court. It made a claim against the same store because of a sale of tours, visually designed in the style of the Potter universe.
Sometimes right holders need to protect their brand of films from even an unwanted or strange reputation. In 2009, one company filed the trademark “HARRYCOPTER”, under which it was going to produce small toy helicopters in the form of Harry Potter. No wonder Warner Brothers didn’t like the idea. The company filed a lawsuit and the trademark “Harrycopter” didn’t receive permission to register.


Hobbit

An interesting situation happened with the release of the movie “The Hobbit”, the title of which is also registered as a trademark. In 2012, Warner Bros. announced the official release of The Hobbit based on Tolkien’s novel for December 2012. In order to eliminate unfair competition, the company had to sue for trademark violation. This is due to the fact that, in the same week of December as the original film The Hobbit was to be released, a low-budget film studio announced the release of the film “Age of the Hobbits”. Warner Bros. regarded this as an unwanted brand use and thought it created the possibility of viewers confusing the two films. They also claimed it was an unfair use of the fame of the original “The Hobbit”. Therefore, the company filed a suit on the “Hobbit” trademark violation and demanded the prohibition of the release of the film on the same dates in which the original The Hobbit was to be released. To achieve this result, the company had to prove in court that release of the films at the same time could harm the reputation of The Hobbit. As a result, Warner Bros. proved the likely confusion of two films for movie viewers with the help of the Nielsen National Research Group research center. And accordingly, they managed to prohibit Age of the Hobbits from being released at the same time as The Hobbit.


Pirates of the Caribbean

The “Pirates of the Caribbean” trademark has helped protect these Disney movies from unwanted reputation. In 2015, the music group “Parrots of the Caribbean” filed an application for trademark registration of the same name. After that, the Disney company filed a claim to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, indicating that such a trademark would violate the rights of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Despite the band’s objections, the USPTO took the side of Disney and refused to register the “Parrots of the Caribbean” trademark.


Game of Thrones

North American cable and satellite television network HBO is well known for their fantasy drama series, “Game of Thrones.” HBO also successfully protects its rights through the registered trademark “Game of Thrones”. In 2016, HBO filed a lawsuit against a company that was printing slogans, images and other elements from the Game of Thrones series. Among other things, HBO accused the company of producing counterfeit goods and demanded they stop producing clothing with a Game of Thrones theme. In addition to clothing, HBO previously also filed an objection to the United States Patent and Trademark Office regarding the trademark “Game of Trolls”, under which an extraneous company sells a board game based on the series. Although a decision about this trademark hasn’t been made yet, it is likely that the state patent office will refuse to register the trademark because it would blur the HBO brand.
In November 2018, HBO criticized US President Donald Trump for an inappropriate use of their brand. Mr. Trump posted a picture with the words “Sanctions are coming” on Twitter, which is a direct reference to the Game of Thrones slogan “Winter is coming”. An HBO spokesman expressed his displeasure, pointing out that the company didn’t know about the tweet and that they would not want their trademark to be used for political purposes. Even Donald’s presidency didn’t help him.

As you can see, right holders earn well on the release of branded products. And, of course, they oppose others earning money with the inappropriate use of their brand.
Register your trademark and copyright now! Take care of your intellectual property.