Princess Merida may be a force to reckon with when it comes to certain projectiles, but she won’t be proficient when it comes to baseballs or tomahawks if the Atlanta Braves have anything to say about it. While the recent news of Paramount Resources’ Pixar Petrolium is making a big splash, another significant war has been raging quietly on the trademark front — for months no less.
It all started back in March of last year when we reported on trademark applications which appeared to have been confirming a title change for what was then known as The Bear and the Bow, but is now known to be Brave.
Fast forward to this past summer when — after filing a number of extensions — the Atlanta National League Baseball Club, owners of the Atlanta Braves, formally filed an objection to many of the trademark applications. Although trademarks are specific to their singular and plural forms and the Braves do not possess any trademarks for the word BRAVE (only BRAVES), the organization believes that damages will occur as a result of Disney’s trademarks being approved as they have used the singular form before on merchandise and insist it is common for fans, media, et al to use the singular form when referring to a single player, whereas the pluralized form refers to the entire team.
Private negotiations between The Walt Disney Company and the Atlanta National League Ball Club are currently taking place in regards to several of the objected filings with the ball club intending to file an objection against yet another of the registrations. In other words, don’t expect to see Disney/Pixar ‘Brave’ day at Turner Field any time soon (but don’t rule it out either).
Companies must actively police and enforce their trademarks and take all reasonable action to protect them otherwise the trademark may be considered abandoned and thrown into the public domain. Popular examples of this occurring include aspirin and zippers.
ADDED 12/18/11 – A simple, but effective Google image search (Atlanta “Brave” -”Braves”) failed to turn up any BRAVE (singular) merchandise save for one out-of-print book titled If I Were an Atlanta Brave, part of a ‘Picture Me’ series from Playhouse Publishing which, according to Amazon.com, featured many such titles for various professional sports teams, all of which appear in their singular form in the title.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that The Walt Disney Company is withdrawing from its multiple trademark applications for ‘SEAL Team 6.’
Stitch Kingdom was the first outlet to report the applications which occurred shortly after the assassination of Osama bin Laden by the United States Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, once known as ‘SEAL Team 6′ but now more familiarly known as DEVGRU. After reporting the trademark applications, it was quickly picked up by other outlets, eventually making its way to a mention on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ Weekend Update with Seth Meyers in which a sequel to Disney/Pixar’s UP was imagined to feature Carl Fredericksen surrounded at gunpoint by Navy SEALs.
Despite the numerous reports and almost unanimous negative backlash from the public, the company has made no commentary regarding the applications nor its intents for the trademark usage.
It’s an unfortunate pairing, but it appears that the Walt Disney Company has made significant gestures in both honoring the United States Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the counter-terrorism unit responsible for the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden as well bringing Duffy the Disney Bear’s gal pal Shelliemay to the parks, or at least on merchandise.
Several trademarks for SEAL TEAM 6 have been recently applied for, covering areas such as: ‘Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities;’ ‘Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles (except clothing); hand-held units for playing electronic games other than those adapted for use with an external display screen or monitor; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes;’ and ‘Clothing, footwear, headgear.’
We have to imagine that this move was made in partnership with the United States Government and proceeds, or a portion thereof, will go to benefit specific organizations. More information as this becomes available.
In a (hopefully) completely unrelated move, while the trademark applications for SHELLIEMAY don’t necessarily mean that Duffy’s gal pal will be showing up at the Disney Parks in North America, the intent to offer merchandising featuring her image is a strong indicator.
What comes after the successful ‘Year of a Million Dreams,’ ‘What Will You Celebrate?’ and ‘Give a Day, Get a Disney Day’ campaigns for Disney Parks and Resorts?
A recent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts offers up a service mark with the name Let the Memories Begin. There is no additional information beyond the service mark itself but it certainly does lend itself to a marketing slogan (but not quite up to the promotion level). In other words, it’s probably more Where the Magic Lives than What Will You Celebrate? but only time will tell for sure.
In the past few months, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has also applied for a group of cryptic service marks: Animate, Dash, Genie, Maestro, Pixi and Spark.
Not to be outdone, Disney Consumer Products has chimed in with an application for Nuzzlies, which appears to be a possible line of cuddly toys.
UPDATE #1 – 09/10/10: Multiple sources have confirmed to us that the 2011 Disney Parks promotion will in fact be centered around ‘memories’ and that Disney Parks and Resorts is expected to make the announcement during a press event in New York City on Thursday, September 23.
We have also received reports from annual passholders who have been receiving the email pictured to the right seeking photo and video submissions regarding the subject of memories at Disney Parks.
UPDATE #2 – 09/20/10: Corrected the expected date of the announcement.
Guests probably didn’t need it, but Disney helped point out a ‘name change’ as well. What once read as Disney’s (possessive), now reads as Disney. According to the comments on the blog as well as other places, guests are crying foul.
The only problem with this is that Disney Parks is simply playing by the rules of the game. Who defines the rules is somewhat unclear but what is apparent is that in recent years, particularly under the reign of Iger in which Disney is touted (to the dismay of many) as a brand, California Adventure is simply the latest to receive the non-possessive treatment, but it’s far from being the first and isn’t likely to be the last.
A prime example of this transformation can be seen in the recent re-releases of Disney classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Did Snow really experience a name change since she first debuted in 1937? If you consider the California Adventure logo to be evidence of a name change, then yes, the Snow White you know may not be the same Snow White your children know. Pictured to the right is a side-by-side comparison of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD release in 2001 and the blu-ray release in 2009. Note that the movie’s title had transformed from Walt Disney’s (possessive) to Walt Disney (non-possessive). This is despite the fact that there actually is an existing specific trademark for Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
This is no happy accident. One would be hard-pressed to find a practical example today in which the Disney logo is portrayed as possessive while it was quite commonplace several years ago. Reaching out to our readers when we pondered the change before, the most likely cause for the change suggested was that it had become a trademark issue. Trademark usage guidelines are very strict and while we couldn’t explicitly find anything about possessive use in the laws we looked at, a quick google search indicates that many companies make it clear that trademarks should never be modified from their registered form. And as an example, Walt Disney has been registered, but Walt Disney’s appears to have never been registered.
Going back to the new park logo, however, there’s another difference. And that is whereas the original logo uses the federally registered trademark symbol (®), the new logo uses the more generic trademark symbol. That is because Disney’s California Adventure is in fact a registered trademark, but Disney California Adventure is not.
UPDATE: 06/01/10 - We have learned that Disney Parks has formally applied for trademarks for Disney California Adventure on May 27. But please hold on to your hats and glasses, because we also learned that on May 24, Disney applied for a trademark for Disney It’s A Small World so the trend continues.