Hey IMAX: IMAX Can't Threaten People With Trademark Infringement For Saying IMAX. IMAX. IMAX.

from the imax-imax-imax-imax dept

Over the years, we've certainly seen plenty of ridiculous attempts to overclaim trademark rights, often for the sake of censorship. While it's not always the case, generally speaking, it's smaller, less sophisticated companies and trademark holders who do this. Larger companies do have a habit of trademark bullying on the margins, but they tend to know better than to send absolutely insane trademark threats just because someone mentions their brand. Apparently, IMAX is an exception to that general rule. IMAX apparently believes that merely mentioning IMAX without a license is infringing on its trademark. Even if you're a media company writing about a product and you interview someone who says something nice about IMAX. IMAX is wrong. Also: IMAX.

You see, our friends over at Ars Technica recently wrote a review of the SteamVR offering, and it included a quote from a game designer, Denny Unger, who was talking about how cool SteamVR is and said: "It’s like saying, 'I have an IMAX theater in my house.' It’s so much better that we can get away with a cumbersome setup." That quote also did become a part of the headline to the story, which appears to be what tipped off IMAX's elite crack squad of trademark censors, who proceeded to send Ars Technica this ridiculous letter which states:
IMAX Corporation has been the owner of the federally registered trademark in the United States and Canada since 1970. Any unauthorized use of our trademark is expressly forbidden.

We believe that your incorrect reference to IMAX when describing this product is misleading to readers as we do not believe that it is possible for a virtual reality system to replicate the experience of an IMAX theatre, which is provided by cutting edge projection and sound technology on screens up to 35.72 metres. We request that all future articles regarding this "room-scale" virtual reality system make no reference to our registered trademark.
Ars Technica's response to this ridiculous threat is perfect. It points out, first of all, that the quote mentioning IMAX is actually praising IMAX:
In other words—Unger thinks SteamVR is awesome, and to express its awesomeness, he compared it to IMAX, another thing he clearly thinks is awesome.
But then explains some rather basic things about trademark law that you would think a company the size of IMAX would already know.
First of all, this isn't a story about IMAX, and it contains just one (nice!) reference to IMAX. The statement wasn't Ars' speech at all, but one that an Ars writer chose out of many possible interview quotes. But that's all a bit of an aside, because the important point is that despite Ruby's fantastical interpretation of what a trademark means, we're actually allowed to say whatever we want about IMAX. I can say IMAX screens look like SteamVR, or that they look like my 47" Vizio TV, or that they remind me of purple bunnies. We can review IMAX directly, we can compare it to other products, we can love 'em, we can hate 'em—all without their permission.

The standard in trademark law is to determine whether there's infringement by detecting whether there would be a "likelihood of confusion" between two products. But again, we're very far away from that test here. That standard would only apply if we were selling movie tickets; there are no consumers who confuse reading an article about virtual reality with going to the movies.
And, you know what, I don't think enough people have compared IMAX to purple bunnies.

Ars Technica's Joe Mullin also points to our own article about how, if anyone is messing with IMAX's trademark, it's IMAX itself, which for years now has been installing much smaller screens but still calling them IMAX, confusing lots and lots of people.
It's been years since we mentioned that, and I don't think we otherwise would have had need to do so if IMAX itself hadn't reminded us of this little fact. So, yeah, IMAX, maybe send your staff to some remedial trademark school, because the media can absolutely say IMAX without your "authorization." IMAX. IMAX. IMAX.

IMAX.

Filed Under: ars technica, imax, journalism, trademark
Companies: imax


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  • identicon
    DigDug, 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:38am

    IMAX?

    IMAX the IMAXING IMAXERS...

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

  • identicon
    Jason, 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:41am

    It's also worth noting that IMAX has been changing (or has fully changed, possibly) over to digital projectors, which offer nowhere near the resolution of traditional 70mm IMAX film. Yet it still says IMAX on the door... you'd never know the difference until you bought a (more expensive) ticket and got in to the auditorium.

    The diagram itself is a giveaway: the wider aspect ratio of the Empire 25 screen---which looks to be in the 16:9 neighborhood---is almost certainly for a digital format projector. Real, 70mm IMAX is much narrower, nearly 4:3.

    (At this point I'd be remiss to not give a shout out to my local IMAX theater for keeping their 70mm projectors around, and rolling them out for certain films when they can get prints in. Thanks, Celebration Cinema!)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:42am

    IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX IMAX

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

  • identicon
    alan turing, 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:43am

    Guard Content does trademark protection now?

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

  • identicon
    David, 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:43am

    So what you're saying is..

    That the New IMAX isn't even really Classic IMAX, so they have actually diluted the value of their own IMAX trademark?

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:54am

      Re: So what you're saying is..

      This is the case. I've been lucky enough to have easy access to one of the original IMAX large-format theaters. When I saw a movie in one of the newer IMAX theaters, I found the experience very disappointing.

      As a result, I no longer assume that IMAX really means IMAX.

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

      • identicon
        Grumpy Disheartened Canadian, 19 Jun 2015 @ 11:41am

        Re: Re: So what you're saying is..

        Lucky you. The nearest IMAX screen to where I live is over 600 KM away. I've seen a few movies there, but it never really impressed me much.

        The only IMAX related thing to ever blow my mind was a 3D tech demo back in 2001, which used active LCD shutter glasses rather than todays crappy polarized sunglasses. The latter is partly why I don't go to the theater anymore.

        Unlike polarized lenses, the active version didn't mess with the brightness and colors, nor cause any eye strain. The 3D aspect was clear as day and so in your face that it made you jump back.

        I'm so looking forward to VR just to relive that awesome experience again. Screw theaters, including IMAX. I'm done with them for good.

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

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:49am

    The IMAX Effect

    What we need now is Kirby Delauter on an IMAX screen...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 9:59am

    IMAX

    IMAX.IMAX.IMAX.IMAX.IMAX.IMAX.

    IMAX.

    IMAX.IMAX.IMAX.

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

  • identicon
    Magical Mimi, 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:07am

    IMAX the IMAXing blue bunnies before it's too late!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:07am

    "And, you know what, I don't think enough people have compared IMAX to purple bunnies."

    But wouldn't that make the people who have the trademark on purple bunnies mad?

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:27am

    Super Bowl

    The NFL has the same attitude when people say or display "SuperBowl" They even tried to trademark "The Big Game" but that was rejected.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:29am

      Re: Super Bowl

      I didn't know that, but I don't really follow bowling.

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

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:35am

      Re: Super Bowl

      The logical response -- to avoid any risk of trademark infringement -- would be for no one to talk about football (the NFL version, anyway). In fact, to be safe, no one should watch it, either in person or on TV, lest they be tempted to infringe by talking. And buying NFL-branded goods also encourages infringers to make their own for sale, so none of that.
      It all makes perfect sense now.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 12:56pm

      Re: Super Bowl

      When I see the word superbowl I only think of the time Larry the Cable Guy said he had to "take the browns to the super bowl"

      Seeing a vision of brown floaties swirilling down the drain seems fitting given all the crap the super bowl people have thrown around.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:28am

    Over the years, we've certainly seen plenty of ridiculous attempts to overclaim trademark writes, often for the sake of censorship.

    I believe you mean trademark rights?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 11:52am

    I can see where they would not want "IMAX" to come to mean any large screen projection. They don't want to go the way of Kleenex.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 12:15pm

    I went o IMAX for Superman Returns, I payed at the time $20 for the IMAX experience. Well The IMAX Movie was Blurry, to me IMAX had to much motion blur, andf IMAX does not know what they are doing. I hope IMAX Burns in hell.

    IMAX SUCKS! IMAX SUCKS! IMAX SUCKS! IMAX SUCKS! IMAX SUCKS!

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

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 19 Jun 2015 @ 12:15pm

    How would you adress a letter asking permission to use the term?

    So one needs permission from IMAX to use the word IMAX in adressing a letter to IMAX to get permission from IMAX to put IMAX on the enveloppe as the adressee.
    While going through that vicious circle, one would never come to the point of actually going to ..er.. the cinema.

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

  • icon
    MunkiLord (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 12:21pm

    IMAX apologizes to Ars for its trademark retraction demand

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 4:14pm

      Re: IMAX apologizes to Ars for its trademark retraction demand

      This is a shocking departure from their standard operating procedure. An apology from IMAX is about as rare as the White Rhino.

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

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 4:21pm

      Re: IMAX apologizes to Ars for its trademark retraction demand

      Of course it didn't take long to apologize. The real question is why companies keep repeating the same pattern of:
      1) Accuse someone of infringement.
      2) Watch the accusation hit the tech news sites and make the company look bad.
      3) Issue an apology for something they shouldn't have done in the first place in an attempt to save face.

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

  • icon
    Angel (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 1:04pm

    Apparently Imax has apologized to Ars and it was quickly & nicely handled on their part imho.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/06/imax-apologizes-to-ars-for-its-trademark-retraction- demand/

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

  • identicon
    James Hyder, 19 Jun 2015 @ 1:48pm

    Techdirt: you know about trademark, you should also no not to infringe copyright

    Your article about Imax Corporation's overreaching with respect to its trademark is very good.

    So it's a bit ironic that you chose to illustrate the article with a graphic showing relative IMAX screen sizes that you took without permission or attribution from my Web site, LFexaminer.com. Here's the page on which it first appeared: http://www.lfexaminer.com/20081016.htm.

    This is the second time you've used it without permission.

    It's okay, I'm not calling my lawyers. This image is easily the most frequently lifted item on my site. I'm gratified people find it useful.

    But I wouldn't mind if you include the following credit in future: First published in LF Examiner, October 2008, (c) 2008 by Cinergetics, LLC. www.LFexaminer.com.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

    --James Hyder
    Editor/Publisher, LF Examiner

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

    • icon
      LFexaminer (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 1:54pm

      Re: Techdirt: you know about trademark, you should also no not to infringe copyright

      D'oh! "no" in the headline should be "know," of course.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2015 @ 6:28pm

        Re: Re: Techdirt: you know about trademark, you should also no not to infringe copyright

        It must be "no."

        I own the copyright to "k" and the letter "w" as well as the number "2" as in 01

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

    • icon
      NeghVar (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 4:02pm

      Re: Techdirt: you know about trademark, you should also no not to infringe copyright

      I doubt anyone in this forum would consider two rectangles with inner captions and a figure a creative work or art. Most elementary kids could draw this and any teen or older could draw it just as easily.

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

      • icon
        LFexaminer (profile), 20 Jun 2015 @ 12:10pm

        Re: Re: Techdirt: you know about trademark, you should also no not to infringe copyright

        Copyright law does not specify how "creative" a work must be to be covered. If Techdirt had redrawn it themselves, there would have been no infringement. But they didn't. They used my copyright image without permission, which I would easily have given, or attribution, which would have been almost as good, and is a common professional courtesy.

        Again, I don't have a big problem with their using it, but it's important that people understand the facts about copyright, and not think, as you apparently do, that there are criteria, like a supposed lack of creativity, that excuse infringement.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 9:58am

      Re: Techdirt: you know about trademark, you should also no not to infringe copyright

      So it's a bit ironic that you chose to illustrate the article with a graphic showing relative IMAX screen sizes that you took without permission or attribution from my Web site, LFexaminer.com.

      Don't you think they have a strong fair use claim? That would make the use not ironic at all.

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

  • icon
    TC (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 2:25pm

    In regards to the smaller IMAX theaters that are now claiming to be full IMAX theaters in most IMAX installations in multiplexes that are not large enough to incorporate true IMAX...we officially named them "FauxMax" theatres back in...oh, I don't know...2007 or 2008...we refer to this type of IMAX set up on our website and podcasts. We always feel that the attempt to make US feel that this is a TRUE IMAX experience is appreciated, if a bit misguided...after all the Boston area has three TRUE IMAX theaters and one OMNIMAX theater. IF we want a REAL IMAX experience, we'll go to a REAL IMAX theatre. And besides, the new XS theaters that the Showcase chain is rolling out is much better than the FauxMax - Faux IMAX - experience...and oh, by the way, the term "FauxMAX" may be freely used by anyone EXCEPT lawyers and executive corporate monkeys from the IMAX corporation because, oh I don't know...REASONS....

    Honestly, this shit is just getting RIDICULOUS...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 3:19pm

    Question

    If I say MAXI, does that mean that they owe me money? It's only fair.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jun 2015 @ 5:05pm

    IMAX confused?

    The primary hiring qualification should the size of their lawyers intellect NOT their balls.

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

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 19 Jun 2015 @ 10:11pm

    Also: IMAX.

    Obvious, but still kinda funny.

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


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