3 Famous Movie Franchises And Their Marks

Lisa Wright,

Although many of us have been enjoying watching the latest movies from the comfort of home lately thanks to subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney + and Hulu, the film industry as a whole has been greatly impacted by the current global health crisis and lockdown caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Cinemas are now closed and the film distribution chain has been disrupted. Film shoots have temporarily halted and many live film events have been postponed or cancelled. 

One of the most well-known film events in a film producer’s calendar is the Cannes Film Festival. The 73rd edition of the Cannes Film Festival was due to take place on May 12-23 this year, with the jury to be led by film director Spike Lee. Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate of the festival, recently talked Cannes 2020 to reporter Melanie Goodfellow for ScreenDaily and confirmed that the event is now cancelled and will not take place later in the year. There are no plans to host a virtual event in place of the physical event either. 

However to support film industry professionals (who are mostly self-employed and struggling financially, like many others, at this difficult time) Cannes has launched an innovative new initiative “Marché du Film Online”, a standalone online market. The event will be held on June 22-26 and is intended to mimic the market experience of Cannes. It is a closed event for film industry professionals only.

Rights, Camera, Action!

The creative process and business models of filmmaking have changed fundamentally over recent years. New advances in digital technology have allowed many small and independent filmmakers from all over the world into regional and international markets. These screenwriters, film score composers, producers, distributors, filmmakers and even screen actors, can face many IP challenges within the legal and commercial film environment. 

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has put together an informative booklet entitled “Rights, Camera, Action!” for small and independent filmmakers, which outlines IP rights surrounding the filmmaking process. The information covers the five key areas of the film production process and any corresponding IP rights:

  1. Film development
  2. Film finance
  3. Rights and engagements
  4. Managing risk
  5. Sales and co-production

Trademarking a movie title

Movies are protected by copyright law and many countries accept that any film titles, slogans or other short works may also be protected by copyright, if they are original. Therefore filmmakers do not tend to aggressively trademark their movies - unless they have an intention to produce merchandise or other products (such as e-books, conferences etc). If there is such an intention then copyright protection will fall short and they will need to invest in trademark protection. The main value of film trademarks to the owner is in the licensing of related merchandise and being able to enforce brand protection - by the policing of unauthorized products. 

A very basic definition of “trademark” is a sign, design, or expression which is recognizable and identifies products or services of a particular source. Trademarks are qualified by the TM, SM or ® symbol placed after them by the trademark owner and this allows the general public to understand the status of each mark.

In fact, a trademark can be a word, logo, letter, number, slogan, color, multimedia sound, taste, or even a smell! The Mickey Mouse trademark was filed in the United States with the USPTO on April 17, 1928 by the owner, Walt Disney Enterprises as both a name mark and a logo mark. Betty Boop, another famous cartoon character of the 1930s is also trademarked as both a name and logo mark by the co-owners Hearst Holdings and Fleischer Studios. Their very first trademark application for the mark text Betty Boop was made in 1976 in France.

Marketing your movie merch

Building a marketing strategy with trademark protection for your movie merchandise requires a small investment of time and money at the outset in the trademark clearance process. Using a trademark for your merchandise which is identical to a registered trademark in respect of goods or services without permission could amount to trademark infringement. Using a name which is similar may also infringe, if there is a likelihood of confusion. So it is critically important to incorporate appropriate trademark clearance searches at the marketing strategy stage of your project.

If a preliminary, knock out search reveals an identical or semi-exact existing trademark, depending on the stage of your marketing strategy, you are best advised to adopt a new strong candidate trademark for your merchandise.

You should obtain specialist advice from a trademark attorney (ideally at an early stage if you discover any potential trademark conflict whatsoever in your preliminary search) and also go on to conduct a full AI clearance search and risk analysis of your preferred trademark candidate. Your attorney can also advise you on the registrability of a film title as a trademark and how this asset should be used properly in order to maintain its value.

As stated previously, in addition to the value of film trademarks as a commercial asset when marketing related merchandise, being able to leverage trademark protection and enforce brand protection - by the policing of unauthorized products by third party infringers and brand imposters is invaluable.

3 famous movie franchises and their trademarks

Last week we took a look at the activity of some of the Star Wars related trademarks to mark May the 4th. In this week’s article we take a data dive into the trademark activity surrounding three more well-known movie franchises to find out how the movie industry players at the top of their game manage their brand protection and trademark portfolios!

1. James Bond

The new James Bond film “No Time to Die” is the 25th instalment in the James Bond film series. It features the actor, Daniel Craig in his 5th and final performance as the fictional British MI6 agent 007. The cinematic release date of the movie has been pushed back due to the closure of movie theaters for health and safety reasons, but currently fans of the spy series can expect to be able to watch the new feature film in theaters on November 12 2020.

NO TIME TO DIE Trailer – in cinemas November 2020

EON Productions, an affiliate of Danjaq, is the British film production company that makes the James Bond films and together with Danjaq LLC controls all worldwide merchandising. The 007 franchise has produced 24 films since 1962.

When running a preliminary trademark search for mark text in our enterprise solution ExaMatch we can see that the trademark owner Danjaq LLC fittingly registered the very first trademark JAMES BOND SPECIAL AGENT with the United Kingdom UKIPO in April 1967 (the mark is still valid today) and owns over 100 live trademarks containing the text JAMES BOND at the time of writing. 

Interestingly the top three registries where these marks are registered are Taiwan TIPO (10.3%), Hong Kong IPD (6.8%) and European Union EUIPO (6%). Top products are found in Nice Class 3 (Perfume), Class 9 (Computers and Computer Hardware) and Class 25 (Footwear). In the top ten representatives we can see the distributor and media company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios as well as law firms Allen & Overy and Gowling WLG.

When looking at oppositions filed in the United States USPTO, European Union EUIPO and United Kingdom UKIPO with our new business intelligence tool Portfolio Analyzer, we can see that just like their character 007, Danjaq LLC takes an aggressive stance when it comes to infringing third parties. Their most litigious brands are 007, JAMES BOND 007 and SHAKEN NOT STIRRED.

2. Harry Potter

Harry Potter is a British-American film series based on the original books by the author J. K. Rowling. The film series is distributed by media company Warner Bros. It consists of 8 films and began in 2001 with the film “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone” and ended in 2011 with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2”.

When running a preliminary trademark search for mark text in our enterprise solution ExaMatch we can see that the trademark owner Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc filed for the very first HARRY POTTER trademark application in September 1998 with the European Union EUIPO (and the mark is still valid today). At the time of writing the owner holds over 500 live marks which contain the mark text HARRY POTTER.

Top registries are the United States USPTO (11.2%), Argentina INPI (7.4%) and Brazil INPI (6.8%). The top 3 products are found in Nice Class 9 (Games Software), Class 16 (Posters) and Class 9 (Decorative Magnets) with a ratio of 27.5%, 26.4% and 25.2% respectively. 

No magic required when using our Portfolio Analyzer business intelligence solution to take a peek at Warner Bros. brand management! HARRY POTTER is currently placed second on their list of most litigious brands with 7 oppositions, after ROAD RUNNER.

3. Jurassic Park

The first movie in the franchise, Jurassic Park, was directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1993. The plot concerns an entrepreneur, John Hammond, who opens a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs. However, a breakdown of the island's security system allows the dinosaurs to escape and chaos ensues. Since then four more movies have been made - and the sixth “Jurassic World: Dominion” is due to be released in 2021.

When running a preliminary trademark search for mark text in our enterprise solution ExaMatch we can see that the trademark owner Universal City Studios LLC obtained registration of the very first JURASSIC PARK trademark in March 1995 at the Hong Kong IPD.  At the time of writing the owner holds over 330 live trademarks which contain the mark text JURASSIC PARK.

Top registries are Paraguay DINAPI (12.4%), Taiwan TIPO (7.4%) and South Africa CIPC (6.8%). The top 2 products are both found in Nice Class 28  with “Toys, Games, Playthings and Novelties” (17.6%) and “Go Games” (16.2%) followed by Class 25 (Shirts) with a 12.4% ratio.

The biggest brand name owned by Universal City Studios LLC (and Amblin' Entertainment) today is JURASSIC WORLD followed by JURASSIC PARK.

Screen internationally

If you have a movie in the making, you can run an instant knockout screening search of your proposed trademark and get peace of mind over your marketing strategy now. It’s cheaper than a cinema ticket! Your search costs just $13.99 - and it takes just 15 seconds to get your results.

For those of you who are lucky enough to already own a trademark and are busy selling your movie merchandise it has never been more important to protect the value of your existing assets at this turbulent time and screen for potentially infringing third party applications.

WORD WATCH Trailer - available now!

Our new pay-as-you-go online brand protection tool Word Watch packages enable you to watch your brand in up to 3 or 10 countries of your choice. You get our Word Watch automated alerts (exact and similar name matches) to any and all third party potentially infringing trademark applications  direct to your inbox - ranked and analyzed for you by our AI -  in order of potential threat.

It is no time to let your brand protection die!

Fast and Flexible Trademark Monitoring Tool