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.