August 20, 2014

Warner Bros. Rises to Victory in Dark Knight Trademark Case

by Guest Blogger

Thedarkknightrises Poster

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Comic-Con. I failed to mention that many comic book and movie fans were none too pleased about the recent announcement that Ben Affleck would be following in the footsteps of Christian Bale (and George Clooney and Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton and Adam West, among others) as Batman. Warner Bros., on the other hand, is very pleased with a recent trademark ruling related to the Batman movie: The Dark Knight Rises.

You remember the one, with Catwoman and Bane and Robin. You may also remember that part of the plot revolved around a computer software known as "Clean Slate" that could allow someone to erase their identity. Well, it turns out that Fortres Grand Corporation makes a computer program called "Clean Slate" that can remove user changes from a shared computer. Fortres Grand filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Warner Bros. claiming that the movie had led to a decrease in sales of their product because consumers believed it was illegal or fake. The case made it all the way to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that Warner Bros. had not infringed finding that there was not a likelihood of confusion between Fortres Grand's product and the fictional software in the movie.

For those interested, the opinion is a relatively fun read (as far as legal opinions go). You can read it here. It includes a "Spoiler Alert" when discussing certain plot points in the film and also cites to Wikipedia (something most attorneys secretly wish they could do). More importantly, it takes a pithy approach to analyzing the difference between fictional products and real products in evaluating likelihood of confusion.

If only I had a video of Bill reading the likelihood of confusion factors in his best Bane voice . . . instead, this YouTube video will have to suffice.

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