What Is a Movie Trademark?

Movie trademarks are a method of securing intellectual property when making a movie. Goods and services can be distinguished from each other through the use of a trademark. Trademarks can take many forms, including designs, logos, and pictures. Even certain sounds and smells can be used as trademarks.

What Does It Take to Be Capable of Trademark Registration?

If you wish to register a trademark, your mark should be:

  • Distinctive and original
  • Straightforward and not misleading or deceptive
  • Meant only to identify your goods or services
  • Easily distinguishable and not likely to be confused with other marks

Things to Do if You Are Interested in Obtaining Registered Trademark Protection

If you want the protections provided by a registered trademark, you should start using the ™ symbol on all of your services or goods. Using this symbol shows that you have claimed unregistered rights to your mark. The next step toward obtaining registered trademark protection is learning more about the registration process by talking with an experienced trademark lawyer. Make sure that you're not using the ® symbol before your trademark has been registered, as this is illegal and may result in harsh penalties.

The Importance of a Registered Trademark

While registered trademarks provide you with full legal protection, it doesn't mean that unregistered trademarks are without value. Whether your mark is registered or unregistered, no one is allowed to try and trick the public into thinking that their products or services are yours. It's important to remember that this confusion can lead to a loss of your reputation, and if you haven't registered your trademark, your only real solution will be passing off the blame.

Registering your trademark is always the best idea, particularly if you want to brand items related to a film. For instance, it's crucial that your production company has a registered trademark, particularly if you're looking to grow a brand that will be recognized worldwide. As an example, films that will go straight to video usually will not need their name trademarked, as it's likely the movie will be rarely seen. On the other hand, if you expect to be able to profit from your film for a long period, including offering merchandise or producing a sequel, then registering the title of your film as a trademark may be a worthwhile investment.

The names of characters or a recognizable element of a story can also be trademarked. You will only be able to earn merchandising royalties if you register a trademark and offer licenses for these trademark rights. This can be a very lucrative practice for popular film franchises.

Things to Remember Regarding Trademarks

It's important to remember that other companies have unregistered and registered trademarks on which the reputation of their business is based. If you're concerned that any action may violate the trademark rights of another person or company, you should get advice from an experienced intellectual property attorney.

Identifiable Trademarks

Trademarks that can be easily identified can potentially be used in a film. However, if the owner of the mark takes offense at its usage, you may face serious legal action. The consequences of using an identifiable trademark can depend on how the mark is used and if the trademark holder is overly protective of their brand.

Trademarks Hidden in Plain Sight

Just because something is large and popular, it doesn't mean it can't be protected by a trademark. Any trademark that appears on camera during the production of a movie, TV show, or other commercial production must be licensed, even if the mark is only seen for a brief moment. For instance, if a screenwriter establishes a scene using a famous mark such as the Hollywood sign, they will have increased the licensing costs of the film.

The Empire State Building, for example, is used as a meeting place in a variety of films, and because the building is a trademarked location, showing it on screen requires licensing. A variety of well-known structures are protected by trademarks, and the people that own the trademarks often want to protect these buildings iconic status, meaning they will be very cautious about giving licenses to film or television productions. If you want to use a famous building or location in your film, you need to do your research so you'll be prepared for any potential legal obstacles.

If you need help understanding movie trademarks, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.