The Academy Bullied CNN Into Including Trademark Icon For 'Oscars' On Its Crawl For Some Reason

from the and-the-award-for-dumbest-fight-goes-to... dept

Usually when we talk about the Oscars behaving badly about intellectual property, it has to do with either its combat against film piracy or its rather stunning tradition of facilitating it. What’s clear in most of those stories, though, is that when the Motion Picture Academy decides to sink its collective teeth into something, it is bulldog-ish in its unwillingness to let it go. It seems that this is the case on matters of trademark, as well. Unimaginably petty trademark matters.

As CNN was covering a boycott by some actors of the Oscars ceremony, it appears someone in PR for the Academy had pestered CNN to the point that the news channel, contrary to how just about everyone else does it, agreed to include a trademark registration symbol when discussing the Oscars on its crawl. To get an idea of how jarring doing this is to the viewer, see the following screen-cap.

Now, is this the hugest deal of anything ever? Obviously not, but that’s what makes this so annoying: why does the Academy care if CNN’s crawl about the Oscars has a trademark registration mark? Television and print news organizations all over the place omit it all the time, because including it both serves no purpose and annoys basically everyone. Why is this the hill on which the Academy chose to fight?

While the name “Oscars” is certainly a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (so CNN is correct on that count), most style manuals, including the AP Stylebook, forgo the use of it or the non-registered trademark symbol (™).

Not only does the use of it clutter up pages and graphics, but back in the old days when news was literally distributed via wires, such symbols couldn’t be transmitted.

It’s only useful quality is as an insight into the minds of employees at an organization that has gone IP-crazy. Because they must be the only ones that actually care about this. Still, it’s disappointing that CNN’s apathy led to capitulation to the silliest of demands.

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Companies: cnn, motion picture academy

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Comments on “The Academy Bullied CNN Into Including Trademark Icon For 'Oscars' On Its Crawl For Some Reason”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You mean all of those other companies you named who didn’t browbeat a “news” organization to include the symbol?

Perhaps the fact they devoted more time to making sure the freaking symbol was there than making sure they were connected to reality explains the problem. Spending more money on lawyers than on an 8 yr old who could tell them if their system makes sense.

Thanks for playing, but head back down to the farm league… you aren’t ready to play with the big kids yet.

TasMot (profile) says:

Not So Sure About CNN Caving

Another way to look at this from CNN’s point of view is that by “caving” they don’t have to pay their lawyers $500/hr. to argue that the Circle-R Ranch symbol is not needed. Just include it for a few more weeks and then “forget” to put it in again until the Oscars idiots come complaining again. Let them keep paying the lawyers to show up and say “Hey You Forgot the stupid Circle-R again”. CNN doesn’t need a lawyer to do anything except send the “Ooops, forgot” letter again. In a little while the $#% @#$! show will be over and done with for another year and by then they will have to start the Circle-R all over again.

If CNN were really smart, they would pull a Google and just stop talking about the #@$# %^% show until they come begging with cash in hand for CNN to talk about it.

Median Wilfred says:

Trademark isn't a specific thing is it?

Shouldn’t that be “Oscars(R) Brand Motion Picture Awards” rather than just “Oscars(R)”?

I mean I hate to be a Latrine Lawyer here, but surely other awards for subjectively-high-quality movies exist, and therefore the term “Oscars(R)” must apply to only one of these many awards.

Once the trademark becomes synonymous with the thing (linoleum, anyone?) it loses its status as a trademark, right? Average Joe want to chip in here?

Anonymous Coward says:

By adding a trademark symbol to something, you are claiming ownership of the trademark. If you do not own it, you should disclaim it by stating who the owner is. So adding a trademark symbol with no disclaimer is actually a worse offense than not adding a trademark symbol. It’s the owner’s responsibility to claim ownership and nobody else.

Median Wilfred says:

Re: (R) as charm against legal retribution

I agree with what you’ve said, but that’s not the “permission culture” mindset that I see in everyday life. From what I’ve seen in daily life, people think that adding an (R) or (C) or (TM) to something amounts to legal pixie dust that immunizes the casual user of “intellectual property” against legal retribution. Maybe the analogy is when you ask one of your kids to clean up the mess on the dining room table, and the kid says “But I didn’t do it!” and therefore shouldn’t be required to clean the mess up. Superstitiously adding (R) or (TM) to some brand name means that the responsibility is taken away from the superstition holder.

John85851 (profile) says:

This is news reporting

I think the bigger question is: since when is a R or TM required when doing a news story on a company? Isn’t that the very definition of fair use? Or am I getting my copyright and trademark defenses mixed up? 😉

In any case, everyone knows that the word “Oscar” is referring to the Academy Awards, so why would that registration need “defending”? And I’m sure CNN used “Oscar” instead of “Academy Awards Ceremony” because it was less characters. Or would CNN need to put an R after “Academy Awards Ceremony”?

pr says:

Don't use the trademark

The real answer is to not use any trademark. If the holders of the trademark don’t like the way you’re giving them free advertising, don’t give it to them. If you never mention their self-congratulating TV show, you don’t have to worry about tripping over their trademark.

In a similar vein, the lawyers for the makers of a particular brand of expanded polystyrene foam got onto my local solid waste department for failing to include the trademark symbol next to their brand name. The right thing would have been to stop using their brand name, just call it polystyrene foam. Unfortunately, the city caved, giving free advertising to the bully.

If you read woodworking magazines you’ll notice that nobody ever mentions a certain type of pressed fiber board by its brand name anymore. Everyone used to call it by the most common brand name. Their lawyers got militant; now everybody calls it “hardboard” to avoid the trademarking. I’m having trouble remembering what we used to all call it.

There’s also a sports league with a lot of militant lawyers who will come down on you for simply calling their event by the name that they gave it. So I won’t mention it.

Lurker Keith says:

The Oscars

A group of musicians either all named Oscar or each using the Stage Name of Oscar (or a mix — They could also just dress as different Oscars, including Oscar the Grouch) should form a band (preferably Rock, Punk or Metal, but they could play whatever they like, I just may not listen to them) called The Oscars or even The Oscars®.

Preferably, at least one should be a Trademark attorney, or alternatively they could make a deal w/ Popehat, where Ken gets copies of the music for free, or they donate a little money from winning their case to an anti-Pony Charity of Ken’s choice. Whatever.

The point is watching The Oscars panic about The Oscars, & having no recourse but a bogus case that was defeated when the band was formed.

DannyB (profile) says:

Why do you think CNN was bullied?

Maybe CNN cheerfully and eagerly complied at the first request. Maybe it was even CNN’s idea?

This is one of the major news organizations that wouldn’t cover SOPA — a major story that was happening at the time. They only finally covered it when the internet went dark and they could no longer ignore it.

Don’t assume any goodwill on the part of CNN.

These are the people who had the most astonishing lopsided coverage of Snowden that I could imagine. It was so obviously uncritical of the government’s position that I knew it was time to stop watching. And so I stopped right then. Not because of Snowden, but because of CNN’s so called ‘coverage’ of news like SOPA and Snowden.

The moment I recognized such obvious distortion, it was like the magician’s trick revealed. Everything seemed different. I realized CNN was about entertainment in pursuit of ratings. Not about news and the public interest. Something that journalism had mostly always been about.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

The Mention of Trademark is Nominative Use

There is no problem in using a trademark to refer to the vendor or product covered by the trade mark. If I refer to a beverage as Coca Cola, because it is a particular product of a certain company, I don’t have to disclaim or otherwise misdirect my audience.

I can even use the mark to criticize the company or its product. If I say “Coca Cola is inferior beverage now that the skunks in Atlanta no longer include the ingredient for which the product was named”, there is no need to stick the little ® in there.

For the same reason, #OscarsSoWhite and the users of the hashtag need not disclaim. They are using the mark to discuss the product to which the mark refers.

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