Trademark Animation? Eh what’s that, Doc?

bugs-bunny
Bugs

Ask anyone around, they know that crazy carrot munching guy, yes the one that gives everyone a run for their money, and Here’s Bugs Bunny. Tweety, Bugs, Mickey, the looney tunes gang, Road Runner, not to forget our fictional heroes, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, and others; what do they all have in common? Trademarks. Not animation or fiction? Nope the answer is trademarks.

By the way did you know what marked the difference between a fictional character from a graphic characte. The test is whether the character is depicted by a cartoon or other graphic representation or as a “word portrait”. So all the comics, including Manga would be animations? or word portraits, which one did you guess?

Speaking of Manga Comics, the mark MANGA FACTORY filed with the description  Comic strips, namely magazines and comic books related to asian-style drawings has now been abandoned?

Apart from that I am sure none of you know that Bugs Bunny apart from being the one bunny toon police hasn’t been able to nab, is a registered trademark for Vitamins! No wonder he runs fast. The mark was assigned the trademark serial number of 73331580 and filed with the description, “Vitamins” under the pharmaceutical class of goods.

If you thought he was a lazy bunny,we have proof to support that as well. Take a look at this mark now cancelled under section 8 given the trademark serial number of 73388776 and filed with the description of Sleeping Bags. Maybe Warner Bros Inc didn’t wish to market the product of Bugs sleeping bags? Although the mark was registered as early as 6/5/1984.

Did you know that the Warner Bros studio is the successor to Warner Bros. Cartoons (formerly Leon Schlesinger Productions). This was the very same studio that produced Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon shorts from 1933 to 1963, and from 1967 to 1969. Warner reestablished its own animation division in 1980 to produce Looney Tunes related works. Since 1990, Warner Bros. Animation has primarily focused upon the production of television and feature animation of other properties, notably including those related to Time Warner’s DC Comics publications.

mickey_ears
Trademark Big Ears!

All our toonies have been marketed in connection with a host of products and services, such as licensing programs for children’s toys, posters, animated cartoons, fast food restaurants, and adult and children’s clothing. As characters have become increasingly more valuable, intellectual property and unfair competition law has evolved to provide fictional and graphic characters varying degrees, although with some uncertainty, of legal protection.

Take the case of the USPTO granting registration to the word mark SILLY SYMPHONY SWINGS owned by Disney Enterprises, Inc. bearing the serial number 77952233. Currently it is a new application and bearing the description “Entertainment services in the nature of an amusement park attraction” So can we assume that a new theme attraction is being brought to the fore by Disney in Disneyland?

Its necessary to protect one’s toon or character as the case may be, especially ones that generates revenue by striking a chord with audiences world over. Trademark protection could prevent the exact duplication of the trademark owner’s character or the imitation of that character where the likely  which might result intois to cause public confusion, mistake or deception with regard to source of the products or services that carry the indicia of the character.  The scope of protection is usually only a matter of degree regardless of whether character protection arises under federal trademark law (Lanham Act), state common law of trademarks or unfair competition.

Don’t believe us? The US courts have recognized trademark protection for graphic characters and have found trademark infringement liability under both trademark and unfair competition law. In Fisher v. Star Co. the cartoon characters Mutt and Jeff were protected by the court under trademark and unfair competition principles which found the Star Company liable for their unauthorized use of the characters.

Although if your toon is famous and is extensively used or licensed for use in multiple media formats and in merchandising programs for many different categories of products and/or services, trademark protection may require that the character be registered as a mark in multiple trademark classes since each class represents a different category of goods or services, and registration in each specific trademark class requires an additional fee to be paid.

In addition, because trademark protection is territorial, the mark may need to be registered in countries other than just the United States to provide the maximum degree of protection as possible. Furthermore, any changes in the appearance of the graphic character could destroy the original trademark protection and will therefore require additional trademark registrations to ensure that the current appearance of the graphic character remains protected.

Apart from all this one’s favorite mouse Mickey can also be found registered under Non-medicated toiletries, cosmetics, dentifrices bearing the trademark serial number of 77098442. Did you also know that the earliest surviving stop-motion advertising film was an English short by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper called Matches: An Appeal (1899).

Developed for the Bryant and May Matchsticks company, it involved stop-motion animation of wired-together matches writing a patriotic call to action on a blackboard. J. Stuart Blackton was possibly the first American filmmaker to use the techniques of stop-motion and hand-drawn animation’Humorous Phases of Funny Faces’ is regularly cited as the first true animated film,film and Blackton is considered the first true animator.

shrek
Shrek

One wonders what happened to the mark SHREK? One of the applications is now abandoned bearing the trademark serial number of 75168553 with the description, prerecorded audio cassettes, prerecorded video cassettes, prerecorded audio tapes, prerecorded video tapes, prerecorded compact discs and phonograph records featuring music and motion picture sound tracks; CD ROM programs featuring music and motion picture sound tracks; computer operating system software; prerecorded computer software programs featuring music and motion picture sound tracks; interactive multimedia software programs and others.

Although SHREK has also been applied to other descriptions such as watches, mouse pads, and even magnets! Apart from Warner Bros, Pixar too has its fair share of marks such as RATATOUILLE and TRACTOR. However Disney has made the largest catch of ’em all with a whopping 3632 records of trademark applications in its name and counting.
Disney recently filed for another mark “IMAGINE YOUR PLANET” having U.S. federal trademark serial number 77961136, On Wednesday, March 17, 2010, with the description Education services, namely, conducting programs for children in the field of the environment and conservation; entertainment services, namely, conducting contests for children to promote awareness of environmental and conservation issues.

I can almost hear Bugs saying,” Carrots are devine… You get a dozen for a dime, It’s maaaa-gic” I believe trademarks are too.

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