It's Not HBO, It's Wagga Wagga, Yo!

from the wagga-wagga dept

It shouldn’t be news to anyone who reads Techdirt that HBO is rather well known for being overly protective of its intellectual property. Still, there are times when even those we know to be prickly on these matters pick a fight that has me scratching my head. One such example is the recent news that HBO decided to challenge the trademark registration of an itty bitty regional online television streaming group in Australia.

WaggaWagga.TV, an online live streaming service catering primarily to the people of the southern NSW town, was threatened with a trademark challenge with HBO’s lawyers claiming its tagline “It’s not TV. It’s dot TV” was too similar to HBO’s “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”

“We run an online TV station with local based content where the target audience is Wagga Wagga which has about 66,000 people in it,” said Adam Drummond who heads the two person WaggaWagga.TV operation. “I was bit horrified when I got the letter in the post and it was from the Sydney lawyer representing HBO. At first I thought it was a gag.”

But, of course, it wasn’t a gag. This regional streaming service, offered to a local area and featuring such content as local news, amateur theatrical productions, and the like, came up with a logo and tagline that is about as similar to HBO’s as a fine bottle of wine is to my left foot. The imagery, the logos, the fonts…none of it is similar. The only likeness is the phrase “It’s not TV.” That’s it.

Chance of confusion? Yeah, no chance at all. But that didn’t stop HBO from opposing the trademark under the notion that there was too much similarity and consumers might be confused. This is normally the part of the story where the smaller entity would become frightened and bow to whatever the wishes of HBO might be, suffering any consequences of doing so in silence. Drummond, however, chose not to back down but instead chose to engage with HBO to try to convince them that there was no threat or possibility of confusion here. Turns out this actually worked.

The actor, turned real estate agent, traded a series of legal letters with HBO’s lawyers before being able to convince them not to contest the trademark. However HBO’s lawyers are reserving their rights.

“It does feel like a win. We are doing 14 hour days there are only two of us,” he said. “There is one production person and then there is myself and between us we are scripting everything, producing, shooting, editing and on top of that doing sales as well.”

Which is all well and good, but did HBO really need someone to explain to them that a tiny regional streamer with a barely similar tagline wasn’t a fight worth picking?

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Companies: hbo,

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Comments on “It's Not HBO, It's Wagga Wagga, Yo!”

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John says:

But HBO isn't even in Australia

An Australian consumer can’t signup for any of HBO’s streaming products without using VPN or other services to pretend to be in the USA. You can purchase HBO DVDs or watch their shows via Foxtel (pay TV) but they are not streaming services. How can they honestly believe there is confusion when they don’t have a streaming service in Australia? Another example of an American company thinking the USA is the World & therefore their laws apply in every country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But HBO isn't even in Australia

Nonsense, you can to sign up for HBO Now in Australia!

HBO will simply take your money and cancel your subscription within days when they realize you’re from Australia, and give you no refund, because only dirty pirates live in Australia, not legitimate customers!

So see, the chance of confusion is very real!

David says:


Which is all well and good, but did HBO really need someone to explain to them that a tiny regional streamer with a barely similar tagline wasn’t a fight worth picking?

Are you nuts? Those are the low-hanging fruit. If your legal department is supposed to provide a dependable revenue stream, those are exactly the people you want to be shaking down.

It’s all part of the corporate landscape evolution that has turned a legal department from an unavoidable cost of doing business to a major revenue source.

There is a “copyright industry” but no “photographer industry” or “book writer industry” or “musician industry”.

Anonymous Coward says:


Since it is in fact NOT TV, then the line used by Wagga Wagga is in fact descriptive.

“Generally, use of another’s trademark is permissible—that is, it is considered a “fair use” that does not infringe a trademark right—in two types of situations: descriptive fair use and nominative fair use”

Open and shut case?

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Descriptive

Generally, use of another’s trademark is permissible

Note that HBO was opposing’s registration of their own trademark, not opposing’s use of “It’s not tv”.

Seems to me like they could have avoided this whole brou-ha-ha by not trying to register the trademark themselves. I mean, now they potentially become the trademark trolls, needing to police (or license) anyone else using the phrase in Australia. Win for the little guy perhaps, but this doesn’t seem like a win for the public. Not a loss, perhaps, but that’s a low bar.

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