Crazy Public Domain Monkey Selfie Trademark Filing Gets Crazier: Filed By Someone Pretending To Be Haim Saban

from the so-add-in-publicity-rights dept

So, we recently posted a bizarre story in the form of a law school exam question involving the attempt to trademark a public domain monkey selfie using a photoshopped Gap catalog image. If that doesn't make sense to you, go read the original story. My fingers are too tired to re-explain the whole thing here. Just know that it's as bizarre as it sounds.

And, now it gets even more bizarre. As we noted, the original trademark application appeared to come from Saban Capital Group, the company controlled by media mogul Haim Saban. Saban's lawyers reached out to explain that... the trademark application appears to come from someone pretending to be Haim Saban or his company. Whoever it is (and we've reached out to them) has apparently set up a fake "Saban Capital Group" in the British Virgin Islands, and has filed over 200 trademark applications, some in the name of Saban Capital Group (and some as others). In retrospect, there are some hints that something is not right if you dig deep into the trademark application, including the hotmail email address and the fact that the application is signed by "Tiwhk." Also, it's being sent from Ann Arbor Michigan, rather than LA where Saban Capital Group is actually based. But, almost all of that can be explained away as just some old fashioned way of doing things and/or from a remote/subsidiary address or something.

And, really, who the hell files trademark applications in someone else's name? The whole idea is bizarre, so it didn't even cross my mind.

Saban's (actual) lawyers agree, noting that the real Saban would not "actually do something as foolish as this," and they have no idea who is actually doing it -- but whoever it is has apparently filed over 200 trademark applications. The real Saban Capital Group's lawyers say they're investigating and suggest that the filer/s "appear to be infringers, or counterfeiters, or hoaxers or all of the foregoing" and they "intend to prosecute them to the full extent of the law." I don't see 200 applications, but there are a few others, such as this one, using Chinese characters, which the application claims means "Big Mouth Monkey" which they want to put on clothing (they show it on a pair of shoes). I have, in fact, confirmed that it does, in fact, say "Big Mouth Monkey" with someone who can read Chinese. So, at least that is accurate. And there's this one for a stylized version of the name "Paul Homme" (I have no idea who that is). Or this one for "BIG FACE" (no further explanation needed).

Either way, I've emailed the Hotmail address behind these filings, but as of this posting have not heard back. The real lawyers for Saban seem perplexed by the whole situation as well -- as do multiple trademark experts I've spoken to. No one's quite sure why anyone would file trademarks under someone else's company's name, but it adds yet another element to the crazy law school exam question we had in the original post. Here might be a case where actual trademarks are being violated (that of Saban Capital Group). Hell, I would bet some high priced lawyers might even try to figure out a way to argue that publicity rights are implicated here, though I'm not sure I'd recommend that...

Either way, we'd like to apologize to Haim Saban and (the real) Saban Capital Group for implying that they would file a questionable trademark on a public domain monkey selfie for use on clothing (including wedding dresses) as demonstrated by a photoshopped Gap catalog photo. And, "Tiwhk," if you're out there, please contact us. We'd love to know your side of the story...

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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 20 Nov 2014 @ 11:31am

    Are we entirely surprised?

    Two phrases that go well together...

    "I've emailed the Hotmail address..."

    and

    "... have not heard back."

    Because all the IP greats trust their legal filings to Hotmail.

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

  • identicon
    Adam, 20 Nov 2014 @ 11:36am

    Big Mouth Monkey

    Did a search for Paul Homme, found this:
    http://www.dazuihou.hk/

    Between the chinese characters being correct, the Paul Homme, and the big mouth monkey character on the website, it looks like there is a connection to the patents somewhere here.

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

  • icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), 20 Nov 2014 @ 11:49am

    Expensive Incomprehensibility Too...

    At $325 a pop for standard online filings, or $375 for paper, this weirdness already cost $65k-75k for 200 filings. That's pretty spendy for a wtf.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:11pm

    There's some shady Monkey Business going on here.

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

  • icon
    Phoenix84 (profile), 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:18pm

    No one's quite sure why anyone would file trademarks under someone else's company's name


    An epic troll, that's who.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 1:47pm

      Re:

      An epic troll, that's who.

      Meh. If one looks at Milwaukee County 2013CV2944, Wisconsin Eastern District Bankruptcy 14-24439-gbh, Wisconsin Eastern District Bankruptcy 14-31425-pp and USPTO 86025003 all it takes to have a person make a claim and the Court system to never bother to charge anyone with perjury.

      That's pretty spendy for a wtf.

      Again, Meh. If stolen credit cards/stolen bank info is being used its not the filer's money.

      Well over $60K would be spent in investigating and trying to sort the whole matter out. Economic asymmetric warfare.

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

  • icon
    jameshogg (profile), 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Dammit Alan Cooper would you quit pretending to be somebody else, already?!

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

  • icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:43pm

    Well that's…… unexpected. I had just assumed saban was an idiot.

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

  • identicon
    jackn, 20 Nov 2014 @ 12:59pm

    The process cost at least $350 for each application. Who ever is doing this must have a reason, besides a prank.

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

  • identicon
    Lord Binky, 20 Nov 2014 @ 1:02pm

    I supposed statistically there'd have to be a Troll with time AND money to waste.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Yet another example of an instance in real life that puts outlandish fiction to shame. Frankly, none of this makes any sense, but one thing is for certain. If the applicant reveals himself it is surely only a matter of time before he/she is prosecuted for a perjurious oath associated with every application wrongfully filed.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      it is surely only a matter of time before he/she is prosecuted for a perjurious oath

      Ha!

      Such is rare.

      Odds are this story will just drift away - most legal stories are like that outside of the ABA membership. Lets see if the techdirt staff/readers stay with it and what the outcome is.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 3:12pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, no...prosecutions involving 18 USC 1001 for false oaths are rather commonplace, though the crime is usually one of a laundry list presented during such prosecutions. As a prime example, take a good look at your upcoming tax return and note that by signing you are affirming you are aware that false statements associated with the return are deemed violations of 18 USC 1001 and subject to prosecution according to its provisions. How do you think they got Al Capone?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 5:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Actually, no...prosecutions involving 18 USC 1001 for false oaths are rather commonplace

          Really? Got proof? I'll point to the Milwaukee County DA saying this is not the case from the May 1995 ABA article "The Lies Have It" as authoritative.

          rather commonplace doesn't have numbers and is a gut feeling.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 1:43pm

    OR Saban Group DID file the requests, but now is either a) backing down from them to not look foolish or b) will claim in a court that they DESERVE those trademarks from 'Tiwhk', and with the US legal system being so pathetic, such a convoluted path to victory might actually work (for a while at least)....

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 2:06pm

    Hmm, maybe this is one reason for all the recent hacks (eg JPMorgan Chase) where address, name information etc was stolen but apparently not (so far as we know) account information. "Dastardly criminals" are intent on tying up legitimate firms in the IP arena with confusing and costly paper-chases and spurious legal filings in order to throw sand in the works of legitimate businesses who will be involved in time, trouble and considerable expense to straighten things out. This looks like a test of the system, aka a trial run, (relatively trivial subject matter but at the same time enough to confuse and cause extra investigation while the plot is unravelled). Maybe later we will see fraudulent patent filings used to gum up the works of much larger firms. Could be a state actor behind it, the usual suspects perhaps.

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

  • identicon
    Zem, 20 Nov 2014 @ 4:49pm

    Those thousand monkeys, behind those thousand typewriters? Well they found out Shakespeare is already in the public domain so they have changed tack. AND THEY WANT THEIR SELFIE BACK.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2014 @ 7:06pm

    Ha! I should've known the Samurai Pizza Cats guy wouldn't have done something like that. Good to know the world hasn't gone completely insane. (Just mostly. Same as ever.)

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

  • identicon
    bookgirl, 21 Nov 2014 @ 6:13am

    Equally crazy is that the application claims that the monkey selfie mark is currently in use in US commerce and has been used in US commerce since at least as early as August 16, 2010. Riiiight.

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


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