At some point in the last generation, movies became big brands. I imagine this boom began in the early 1980s with Star Wars, Rocky, The Godfather, Indiana Jones. In more recent years, we have had Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and others movies that have become big brands as well. Every year now, there are several big brand movies released, including all the ones based on comic book characters.

Big movies now are tremendous investments — and profit centers — and spin off into books, TV, theme parks, video games, clothing, promotional tie-ins, and much more.

Recently, the trailer for the next Star Wars movie was released, about a whole year before the full film’s scheduled release. In advance of the trailer, Lucasfilm filed more than 40 STAR WARS related trademarks this year.  Including including more than a dozen for the title of the new movie, THE FORCE AWAKENS.

District 12, the production company behind the Hunger Games movies, filed more than 1000 trademarks in 2014 for all sorts of names, including KATNISS, EVERY REVOLUTION BEGINS WITH A SPARK, MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR, MOCKINJAY, and more.

Ironically, a trademark really does not protect the title of a single work, including a film. But it can protect a series that share a name. (Note that the TTAB recently ruled that the title of a single book or DVD may be registrable under Section 2(f) if it has acquired distinctiveness, although it is not clear how much evidence would be required.)

But since big blockbuster movies are more than just films, the titles can be protected as trademarks anyways for all the auxiliary and other products and services. Except that they could be perceived as ornamental, no?

In my opinion, the trademark law and the USPTO need to clarify the protection afforded to a title or character or content that become a brand, but are not truly indicating the source of goods or services like a traditional trademark would.


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