Warner Media Opposes Trademark Filed By Actual 'Wicked Witch' Over Its Wizard Of Oz Trademarks

from the witch-marks? dept

Thanks to the convoluted nonsense that is copyright law, readers here will likely be familiar with the insanity that is intellectual property rights revolving around The Wizard of Oz. Thanks to some of the works being in the public domain, some of them being under copyright, and the courts mostly treating all of this on a case by case basis, it’s fairly clear at this point that basically nobody knows who is allowed to do what with anything associated with The Wizard of Oz. Usually, issues relating to the work revolve around this axis of confusion.

But that’s less the case when it comes to trademark issues. For all of its flaws, trademark law is blessedly limited to public confusion and true competition within a specific market. That’s what makes it bewildering that Warner would bother to oppose the trademark application filed by a pagan priestess for her “Wicked Witch Mojo” brand.

Turner Entertainment Company has filed an opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to stop witch and Pagan elder Dorothy Morrison from trademarking her brand name ‘Wicked Witch Mojo.” Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, serves as the copyright holder for a large library of productions made by its sister subsidiary Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (aka, Warner Brothers), that includes The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Morrison said, “I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that Turner Entertainment could have A] been allowed to trademark the phrase ‘Wicked Witch,’ and B] that they had accused me of deliberately weakening their trademark.” She said that, after the shock wore off, she was just angry. “It occurred to me that if Turner saw fit to go after me, there was nothing to stop them from going after anyone in the magical community who’d ever used that phrase. And I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow that to happen,” she explained.

And so she contacted a lawyer and there is now a case pending. Warner’s lawyer apparently discussed the case with her lawyer, refused to budge on the opposition, and suggested that she could be sued for copyright as well for using some imagery in her branding, specifically red-heeled shoes on her business cards. That, and of course, the characters that Warner claims are being referenced in her name and branding.

And that’s where we get right back into the confusing bullshit.

Morrison’s attorney Richard Bullock argues otherwise, saying that these images and words recall the books, not the movie. Bullock writes, “The marks are derived from the writings of L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its various sequels.”

He also argues that Turner’s trademarks are only limited to certain product areas, and that Turner is not likely to be moving into the metaphysical arena; nor will Morrison be producing products for the mainstream toy or clothing markets, and other industries specified within Turner’s trademarks. Bullock wrote that there would be “no likelihood of confusion.”

The latter part referencing the trademark oppositions are almost certainly valid. Nothing in Morrison’s actual trade dress brings The Wizard of Oz to mind at all, regardless of its various forms. Certain references to that work, such as her online marketplace being dubbed “The Flying Monkey Express” can be said to reference the books, not the films. And that really only matters on the copyright question, for which a suit hasn’t been filed. On the trademark piece, it really should be enough that Warner isn’t in the religion business. With no crossover of marketplaces, there is no serious concern for public confusion.

So, in the end, we have a large company trying to push around a real life wicked witch over a specious trademark claim. Warner executives should be thankful, I suppose, that Morrison doesn’t have an actual army of flying monkeys to set upon them.

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Companies: at&t, turner entertainemtn, warnermedia

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Comments on “Warner Media Opposes Trademark Filed By Actual 'Wicked Witch' Over Its Wizard Of Oz Trademarks”

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32 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Timothy tees up humorous consideration of IP idiocy.

OK, a few questions come to mind. First, is she a licensed wicked witch? If not, then she might be violating some local codes, which has nothing to do with the copyright or trademark claims unless the Turner Entertainment Company is accepting that she is in fact a wicked witch. Then one might want to consider whether that license was for ordinary witchery or with a wicked endorsement?

Second, I took a look at the linked article but did not see any shoes so the question remains were those shoes slippers or stilettos? If one, then one might suggest that slippers come in various forms and may or may not be the form used in the movie, but another form that was imagined from the book.

Next, or C depending upon ones method for counting, how the hell is Turner Entertainment Company going to prove that they were infringing on the movie rather than the book?

And finally, or IV to keep the meme in line, I would suspect that witch that she is, there are numerous spells being concocted as we sleep and I am awaiting with baited breath to see what impact those spells have on Turner Entertainment Company or any of their executives. Then, get the popcorn cooker warmed up, their attempts to claim that such spells not only took place but have some chain of verifiable evidence that links back to said witch.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is a trademark claim, so the books have nothing to do with it. She would have had to copy parts of the movie, instead she took elements of the book. There is no copyright claim as of now and I doubt they could make one with out splitting hairs on what elements are in the movie but not in the book.

All this comes down to is the fact that Turner has a trademark on Wicked Witch (perhaps they have licensed the play “Wicked”. But to be fair, they dont mark most material with “Wicked Witch” they only mark it with “The Wizard of Oz” or the play as “Wicked”.

So at best, they are trying to say that the “Wicked” Mark for plays and movies (and related merch), somehow is related to an actual witch.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Suspicion

Considering current events, or more accurately, current revelations about past events, putting quotes around Catholic “priest” makes just as much sense as pagan “priestess”. It’s good to have options when you want to make a point about a particular person, but as a general thing neither should be quoted like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

With the other very clear and admitted references to the story the presence of ruby heels on her business cards is a rather clear reference to the movie. She has a theme going; If the shoes weren’t a reference to the story they’d be rather out of place on her business cards.

Summary: She’s kinda boned.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Technicolor

The 1939 release of the film showcased technicolor, and the ruby slippers were changed from silver (in the book) for that purpose. The scenes in Kansas were filmed in black and white, and then the scenes in Oz (and neighboring regions) were always technicolor.

Since 1956, The Wizard of Oz was broadcast on CBS. While color televisions were available at the time, they were very expensive, so most people who hadn’t experienced Wizard in theaters saw an entirely black-and-white version.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Red shoes

If the graphics on the source article are indicative, there are no red shoes, only the color red on Dorothy Morrison’s placard, so Turner is going cuckoo over wicked witch, a color and Morrison’s real name.

I suspect if she chose green instead of red, they’d still be arguing it had to do with the WWW’s green pallor.

Unless turner is looking to run a line of WWW looking to make some scented candles or something, I suspect it’s trademark overreach. Doesn’t mean Morrison has a case against Turner’s immense legal war chest, though. Certainly the current SCOTUS would rule in favor of the big company, if it got that far.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Religious protections

Thanks to a well-stacked court, Christianity is more privileged than non-Christian faiths in the United States and Catholicism and Baptists have more privileges than the rest.

Although some have specific special privileges, such as First Nation gatherings being able to partake of peyote, and Santería churches being aloud to butcher live chickens within city limits. As late as the 1990s those were often licensed dispensations.

The 1970s workaround was to apply to be ordained by the Universalist Unitarian Church. It was free (now it’s online and free) and the UUC did this as a service just to provide anyone in the US clergy privileges if they wanted them, such as the right to perform marriage ceremonies. (Also discounts at some resellers!)

Nowadays, after rulings like Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop, there may be extensive privileges to being an accredited clergyperson with closely held religious values.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Public Domain

Have to wonder… Disney has been getting away with it for… well… ever.

The books that the movie was based on are Public Domain. How did Turner Copyright *not* the story, but elements of it found in a PD writing?

I can see them getting Copyright on elements that were changed in the movie – the silver slippers becoming ruby slippers, but the character appellations are the same in the books and the movie.

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