Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super trade mark and copy right infringement case.
DC Comics (DC) the creator of Superman, claims clothing manufacturer Mad Engine, has infringed the iconic Superman shield. How? By replacing the “S” with the word DAD.
DC claim that they have never licenced the shield to Mad Engine which sold the DAD t-shirts for Father’s Day via clothing company Target. Whilst DAD is very different to “S”, DC assert the Mad Engine’s shield design is so substantially similar to the “S” crest, that it is an infringement of their copyright. They argue that the DAD shield is made up of the same five sided shape, uses the same colouring and that the text is positioned according to the proportions and shape of the Superman shield.
DC allege trademark and copyright infringement, amongst other things under Californian and US federal law. The new Superman film, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is set for release in the US in March 2016.
It appears that larger companies will not hesitate to assert their intellectual property rights against smaller businesses, particularly if there is a new movie, book or video game around the corner.
Last month a fancy dress company in Reading, felt the force of Disney’s power after they were ordered by Nominet to hand over the domain www.starwars.co.uk despite the store’s parent company Abscissa, owning the domain for over ten years without challenge. Nominet, (who oversee .uk domains) were of the view that Abscissa had taken advantage of the ‘pulling power’ of the name Star Wars to attract users to its website and had falsely conferred a commercial connection with Disney who plan to release the first of several new Star Wars films later this year.
In 2012, the Hobbit pub in Portswood, Southampton was threatened with legal action by Saul Zaentz Company in California who own worldwide rights associated with author JRR Tolkien, including The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. The pub has been called The Hobbit for over twenty years and the threat of legal action coincidentally came about prior to the release of the first Hobbit instalment later the same year.