Batty Trademark Dispute

from the pow!-blam!-trademark! dept

Not quite sure what to make of this one, but the Consumerist alerts us to a bit of a trademark dispute between DC Comics and a small BBQ restaurant called BATS. Apparently, the restaurant's name comes from the names of its owners, "Beau And TraviS' restaurant," and they designed the following logo:
Now, that clearly does have some similarities to the Batman logo, even though they insist "Our bat is not their bat." In fact, they're correct that the bats are not the same. As someone in the comments on the Consumerist post notes, the actual Batman logos, which have morphed over time, are ever so slightly different from this logo:
But, of course, that doesn't matter. All that really matters is if there's a likelihood of confusion in areas for which DC has the trademark or (potentially) if DC can make a case of dilution. Given how many people see the logo and pretty much immediately think "Batman," DC probably can make a strong "likelihood of confusion" case. The restaurant owners are apprently fighting DC, specifically by suggesting that DC's trademarks on Batman don't extend into the restaurant space, but that does seem like it might be a difficult sell. At best, it's a total crap shoot based on the judge -- and given the cost of fighting a trademark battle over such a logo, this is one where it actually seems like it could make more sense to just change the logo.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:21pm

    Mike, is that you?

    It's an outline of a bat. To promote a restaurant. Yes, it looks vaguely like the outline of a bat to promote a comic book. Not an issue (pardon the pun.)

    The capriciousness of our legal system aside, the real factor here is that DC has a team of lawyers and BaTs does not.

    Disgusting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Brian, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 6:09am

      Re: Mike, is that you?

      I gotta say, although there is similarity, it's similarity with a BAT, not with DC. Are we making animals proprietary now?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Rob Bodine (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:32pm

    Confusion

    How could anyone seriously confuse the restaurant logo with DC Comic's logo? The restaurant logo isn't just an outline of a bat. It also includes words demonstrating that this is a BBQ restaurant. It's a completely different industry. Now I admit that having the same words and replacing the bat symbol with, for example, the detailed New England Patriots symbol could be problematic, but the bat outline is far too simple a design to allow all permutations of it to go to the hands of a single trademark holder in a single industry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:32pm

    Looks like Batman to me

    Close enough to let you know they saw the Batman logo before they designed the new one. Does not look like a bat so much as a person in costume.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Urza9814, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:11pm

      Re: Looks like Batman to me

      Huh? Their logo looks like a simplified bat silhouette....

      http://www.infovisual.info/02/064_en.html

      Convert that bat diagram into a silhouette, remove the hands and feet, and what do you get?

      http://personal.psu.edu/bsf5033/blackbat.jpg

      Gee, pretty much looks exactly like their logo. Just with slightly bigger ears. But then, simplify it a bit more - draw two lines straight down from the ears - and it looks _exactly the same_ as the restaurant's logo. A marginally simplified picture of something shouldn't be trademark infringement.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    SUNWARD (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    poll to smurf

    the story linked to has a poll asking if the restaurant should keep or change the logo

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:06pm

    You are getting soft Mike.

    DC pay you a little much to write it that way? What happened to fair use and your spine?

    I didn't realize you could have a trademark be as vague as "any shape that resemble this" so much for specific instance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Paul`, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:08pm

    If anything it looks more like the Bacardi logo.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Jack.Pott (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 4:54am

      Re: looks like Bacardi

      good point Paul`,

      did DC ever sue Bacardi & Company Ltd? Guess not - bullies always pick on the weak ones...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Patrik, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      That's why it looks so familiar! You're right, it definitely resembles the Bacardi logo. We've been spending too much time staring at the "call" shelf, apparently.

      Damn! Louisiana Style BBQ? Sign me up. DC Comics were always lame, anyway. Why don't Beau and Travis just retcon to prove that their restaurant did in fact exist BEFORE Batman was created... at least in some universe. DC Comics knows *all* about that kind of logic. Hell go ahead and offer a 'Marvel No-Prize' to someone who could write that retcon, that would *really* stick it to DC.

      /geek

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    DMNTD, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:58pm

    Pure bull

    Fight...and while your at it tell DC to sit and spin. I really could understand is this was announcing a new comic hero and still its not "their" bat...their bat ROFL what a joke that is to say....grow up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    JC, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 8:31pm

    Batman Logo

    If I'm remembering correctly, back in th 60s DC created the yellow oval around the bat silhouette because they couldn't trademark the silhouette itself. Did that change?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    BruceLD, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:33pm

    Subject

    When I see a "bat" image/logo I instantly think of those crazy bats that would always be flying around "The Count" on Sesame Street.

    I wonder if Sesame Street is now going to go on a suing spree?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 12:12am

    Hmmmm. it's close enough to be very similar, but I also doubt that anyone will go "wow, I have to go to this restaurant because it's officially sanctioned by DC!".

    I'll chalk it down to overzealous prosecution due to the "must defend" aspect of trademark law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mojo, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:02am

    While I agree that the bat sillouette graphic is so vague it should NOT be subject to copyright, I also think it's VERY likely that these folks did that logo with the full intention of "paying homage" to Batman.

    I mean let's face it, it's kinda hard for most people to see that logo and NOT think of Batman. I think it very unlikely that the restaurant owners did not see the similarity until the lawyers showed up...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    R. Miles (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:35am

    I can understand the dilution of a trademark issue, but this is clearly an outline of a bat, not a bat man.

    Even DC has modified its logo (nice addition of the video, btw) over the years which means even they can't keep a specific design without re-branding the franchise, unlike the Superman "S", for example.

    Clearly DC is in the wrong here. There's much more to the Batman franchise than the logo, which they've also trademarked.

    Of course, with comic book sales in the toilet now, DC has to make money somehow. /eyeroll

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    JustMe (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 5:10am

    MMM good

    I see the picture and the name of the restaurant and I think they are making BBQ Bat (not that there is anything wrong with that). I do not think of DC comics.

    I'm annoyed that DC appears to that *nobody* can use the outline of a bat because of their crappy franchise because that doesn't seem right. I went to their website to register a complain but the DC Contact Us page only has mailto: links for money making opportunities. Instead, I'll vote with my wallet and no longer see a DC franchise movie, or buy toys or comic bo\\ graphic novels. Sorry DC, you've lost a potential customer thanks to your lawyers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Valkor, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Two complaints

    First complaint: no barbecued bat on the menu.
    Second complaint: crappy font used in the logo.

    So.. I guess that means I would rather eat bat than look at that horrible font. Can I sue for bad taste in false advertising? Please?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 10:02am

    What should they change it to? Something other than a bat? You shouldn't be able to trademark something so generic as "anything that looks like a bat and only uses one color".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    czanchez, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    I think the BBQ's logo is different enough from the batman logos to prevent confusion. All the Batman logos have some form of upward curve on the top part of the winds, the BBQ logo does not. The upward curve is a distinguishing mark of the Batman logo, without the curve it would not be Batman, and the BBQ logo is definitely not Batman.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Phil, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:56pm

    The Likelihood of Confusion . . . about what a trademark is for.

    Sigh... Your remarks regarding the "likelihood of confusion" reminded me how frustrating it is to read the public comments that follow main-stream media stories which happen involve trademark issues. (such as the recent "light-saber" laser and the current IHOP church) It is apparent that many in the general public have totally bought into the idea that the law allows you to exclusively own a word, an idea or the general appearance of an image. The fact that trademark is supposed to be about confusion in the marketplace is unknown to some people.

    Once again, it must be said that the use of the term "intellectual property" is responsible for a lot of this confusion in the public discourse, because people have the common-sense conception that if you "own" something then you should have the full and exclusive right to determine precisely how, and if it is to be used.
    It is if owning a trademark were no different than owning a car.
    Most unfortunately, I believe this is exactly how IP maximalists believe the law "should" read . . .
    The hell with how the law actually does read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ben, Sep 19th, 2010 @ 8:22pm

    @ R.Miles
    "Even DC has modified its logo (nice addition of the video, btw) over the years which means even they can't keep a specific design without re-branding the franchise, unlike the Superman "S", for example."

    You'd be supprised how much the Superman S has changed over the years

    Original
    http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/wysiwyg/image/Superman_Shield_Golden_Age.jpg

    Compared to now.
    http://www.louderthanwordsbooks.com/marni/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Anonymous-Superman-Logo-1 5837.jpg

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This