Monday, May 23, 2011

Disney: IP Troll

Two days after an elite group of the US military, known as Seal Team Six, killed Osama bin Laden, Disney filed three separate applications to trademark the name:
In a perfect example of a big media company looking to capitalize on current events, The Walt Disney Company has trademarked “Seal Team 6"... Disney’s trademark applications for “Seal Team 6″ cover clothing, footwear, headwear, toys, games and “entertainment and education services,” among other things.
First, before I get to the point, I disagree with the term "capitalize" in the block quote above. This is no more an example of capitalism than our public schools.

As I pointed out in a previous post, IP Trolls are persons or companies who buy up or file for exclusive rights in order to receive a government grant of monopoly privileges to lock out competition and sue the bejeezus out of anyone who tries to compete. Disney is clearly being an IP Troll. They have no reasonable claim to the term "Seal Team Six," nor any projects previously in the works that could justify such a claim. They learned about this team they way everybody else in America did, on the news.

The Navy has taken notice and filed their own applications, though their a little slower on the uptake. Will this be the end of Disney's money grab? Probably not, says William McGeveran, a law professor at the University of Minnesota:
Disney may get approval, but what’s more likely to happen... is that Disney and the Navy will reach some kind of mutually beneficial agreement. Law enforcement agencies, such as the New York City Police Department, make such arrangements, lending out their trademark or cars, in exchange for compensation or script approval.... He could imagine that Disney might want to make a movie or TV show based on SEAL Team 6 and would strike some kind of deal with the Navy.
This is not an unusual practice. Large corporations that own a lot of copyrights have been known to sue each other and then work out an agreement to where they can both have access to each others copyrights, reducing competition even further.

Also, in the celebratory spirit of the aftermath of bin Laden's death, merchandise galore popped up with the term on them. Now, there is a possibility that these people could be sued in the future.

Welcome to America. Land of the free. If you have really good lawyers. (I exaggerate, but only slightly)


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