Silly Suit: East of Sunset

Posted by | December 02, 2010 | General | One Comment

According to the Courthouse New Service, a company named Blixa films filed a trademark infringement suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on November 30, 2010 seeking to prevent Thrillhouse Productions (Thrillhouse) from producing a rockumentary called East of Sunset.

Blixa already produced a 2004 rockumentary called East of Sunset, which was set in Los Angeles and featured the story and music of the venerable musician and actor, Tom Waits.  Thirllhouse plans to release a rockumentary called East of Sunset that examines the LA indie rock music scene and what “making it” means to bands in modern times.  Thrillhouse’s East of Sunset is intended for the film festival circuit, and will be released on-line and on DVD.

The Motion Picture Assoc. of America (MPAA) has a Title Registration Bureau, which is a voluntary central registration entity for titles of movies intended for U.S. theatrical distribution, and it is intended to prevent public confusion over films with similar titles.  According to a blog post on THR, Esq. yesterday, the MPAA’s procedure usually is relied on only by the bigger movie studios.

Apart from this voluntary self-policing with oversight by the MPAA, however, there is no intellectual property protection for titles (which probably explains why Blixa filed in LA Superior Court rather than federal court, where most trademark disputes are heard).  Specifically, Section 1202.08 of the USPTO‘s Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) states that the title of a single work must be refused federal trademark registration, and that only titles of a series of work may be protected through federal trademark registration.  Moreover, there can be no copyright protection for titles, names or short phrases.

Hence, my presumption is that though Blixa may be a thorn in Thrillhouse’s side, it will not succeed in preventing Thrillhouse from calling its film East of Sunset.

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

One Comment

  • […] column titles can be protected as a trademark, and the answer is YES!  While there’s no IP protection for titles of single works, the title of a series of works, including a series of magazine columns, can be protected under US […]

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