Last month, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that owns the famous children’s television show Sesame Street, filed a lawsuit against STX Productions, LLC, STX Financing, LLC, and STX Filmworks, Inc. (collectively, “STX”), alleging that STX’s use of the tagline, “No Sesame, All Street,” in a new movie trailer infringed on its trademark.
Sesame Workshop contended that the tagline misled fans as to Sesame Street’s involvement in the production and tarnished the Sesame Street brand because the movie trailer reveals scenes containing drugs, sex, violence, and crude language. Sesame Workshop sought a temporary restraining order to stop STX from using the tagline in its marketing materials of the movie.
STX responded by arguing that Sesame Workshop could not firmly attribute any audience’s confusion of Sesame Street’s involvement solely to the tagline, especially since the movie’s leading characters largely resemble the Sesame Street Muppets. The court agreed.
U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick struck down Sesame Workshop’s application for a temporary restraining order. He reasoned that the tagline effectively distinguished the movie from the Sesame Street brand, rather than leading audiences to believe the movie is associated with the brand.
Takeaway: This case serves as a reminder that even taglines in advertising and marketing campaigns can give rise to trademark infringement claims.