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Legal Ease: My Title is Their Title - Now What?

From Film Independent

Q: I’m in the process of wrapping up a movie.  I just discovered that the title we’ve been using, and the title I love, was the title of a little known [major studio] film from back in the ’70s.  Can I still use the title?

I believe it was Joe Eszterhas who once wrote “what’s in a name?”  From a legal perspective, what’s usually in a name is a trademark.  Trademark law allows a party to reserve a name for itself for use in connection with particular goods or services.  If I own a company that uses the mark CINCO as a brand of toys, you can’t come around and use that same mark or any confusingly similar mark (like SINCO) for toys because not only would you be making money off of my hard work (by confusing consumers into buying your products thinking they were mine) but you’d be doing harm to the consumers themselves (who would be stuck not with my ingenious creations but with your inevitably crappy ones).  In sum, when you get to issues of whether or not you can call something by a particular name, it’s usually trademark law that comes into play…

"So is it that simple? I can’t use the title because someone else already has and thus must have trademark rights in the name?"  Simple? Of course not.  See, there’s a twist.  Trademarks generally do not protect a singular title of one work…

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#film independent  #independent film  

Posted 18th October, 2011
  1. lisamct posted this
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