Make Your Mark, But Avoid the Trademark Infringement Lawsuit
When Valhalla Studios announced construction on their new facilities in the booming film city of Atlanta, they thought they had a valuable product to offer and a cool name.
Unfortunately for them, they were hit with a trademark infringement lawsuit for using the name “Valhalla,” and the new studio is tied up in court rather than building excitement for their 2017 opening.
Valhalla Studios got into this predicament because they didn’t research thoroughly or didn’t recognize the implications of choosing the name. This article will walk you through the basic principles of trademark infringement and how you can avoid it.
What’s in a Name?
The famous question from Juliet implies that Romeo’s name isn’t an important part of who he is. And yet, as many filmmakers have learned, the names they choose can have costly legal consequences.
Names do have power and meaning, especially in business. Marketers for everything from Coca-Cola to Apple work hard to sell the brand, not the product. The more recognizable the name, the stronger the brand, and, subsequently, the more economic power the name has.
It’s no wonder, then, that businesses will go to great lengths to protect their names. In legal terms, this starts with a trademark: the registration of a word, phrase, or design that uniquely identifies a brand.
Trademarks’ Impact on Film
To avoid lengthy and costly lawsuits, it’s important that you consider existing brand trademarks when naming your film, or your studio, production company, a fictional brand within your film, etc., etc., etc.
Valhalla Studios learned this lesson when they were sued by Valhalla Motion Pictures for trademark infringement. As chronicled in IPWatchDog, Valhalla Studios is scheduled to open in 2017 to serve the city of Atlanta, which is the same city where Valhalla Motion Pictures shoots The Walking Dead.
The lawsuit contends that by choosing the name Valhalla and operating in the same industry—even the same city—as an existing brand, the new studio “creates a misleading association” between it and Valhalla Motion Pictures.
In simpler terms, the complaint is that the new studio will be making money off a name they didn’t build. Or, if things go sour for Valhalla Studios, that they could harm the brand image of Valhalla Motion Pictures.
Avoid a Trademark Battle with Research
It’s probably clear that choosing a title for your film extends well beyond the writers’ room. Due diligence is required to ensure that the name you choose won’t infringe on someone else’s protected intellectual property.
It is vital that you research not only individual names but any catchphrases or taglines as well. Any of these vital aspects of your film could potentially trigger a lawsuit, which could result in costly fees, fines, or delays in your distribution.
For most filmmakers, this level of in-depth, technical research is beyond their ability or time. Thankfully, The Clearance Lab offer filmmakers a solution to mitigate their risk: a Title Opinion.
A Title Opinion provides not only the detailed research on what existing trademarks you may be in competition with, but also helpful legal advice on how to avoid or mitigate the potential brand conflicts. Additionally, most E & O Insurance carriers will require you to present a title opinion.
Protect your investment in your film and don’t let an unnecessary trademark infringement lawsuit derail you. Get a Title Opinion, and trust that what’s in your film’s name is a title you can keep.