Humane Association Trademarked 'No Animals Were Harmed'; Threatens King's Speech With Infringement Claim
from the descriptive? dept
Another day, another story of trademark law gone wrong. You’ve all seen it at the end of movies, where there’s a little line somewhere that says “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie,” or something along those lines. What you might not know (I didn’t) is that the American Humane Association has trademarked the term “No animals were harmed.” The reasoning, of course, is that it wants to monitor scripts and movie productions to make sure, in fact, that no animals were harmed. Apparently, the Weinstein Company, producers of the highly acclaimed movie The King’s Speech did not choose to work with AHA, but still included the line at the end of the movie, leading the AHA to threaten legal action unless the line is removed from the movie.
While the article at THResq suggests that the trademark is valid, I wonder if that’s really true. “No animals were harmed” certainly sounds descriptive, and that’s a no-no for a trademark. On top of that, it seems you could easily argue that the phrase has become generic, for the simple fact that I’d bet almost no one outside of the movie business has any idea that AHA has the trademark on the phrase. Even if the term was a valid trademark for the AHA, I still don’t see how a lawsuit would get very far. Would AHA claim a likelihood of confusion? That would be tough to show. Dilution? Seems like a stretch. On top of that, assuming it’s truthful that no animals were harmed in the making of The King’s Speech, it would appear that the Weinsteins had a really strong defense.
While I can certainly appreciate what the AHA is trying to do, I’m not sure it’s legally sound. If it wanted a strong trademark, why not design a basic “No animals were harmed” logo that would identify with the AHA and which movies could put at the end of their films so that people knew that the AHA monitored the film to make sure no animals were, in fact, harmed. But focusing just on the phrase seems like a really weak idea.