Paramount Pictures Goes After The Codfather Fish Shop Over A Fish That Looks Like Marlon Brando

from the it's-just-business dept

Before I started paying attention to trademark issues as a part-time living, I'm pretty sure I would have thought that it would take quite a bit to get a big company's lawyers firing off threat letters and legal actions. You know, like an actual threat, or a violation of trademark that had been brought to the company's attention by confused members of the public. Instead, it too often appears that the lawyers for large companies scour the world for any-might-be-possible trademark issue that can be acted upon, like a schizophrenic pouring over the newspapers in search of that secret code the government is using to control our minds.

How else do you explain when Paramount Pictures decides to fire off a cease and desist letter to The Codfather Takeaways fish and chips restaurant in New Zealand because their sign includes a cartoon fish that resembles Marlon Brando?

As part of its signage, The Codfather Takeaways has adopted Brando's Don Corleone character in the style of a fish. Paramount, owner of the trademark The Godfather, is not impressed and through lawyers has instructed the shop to stop. But Danielle Stuart, co-owner of The Codfather, reckons Paramount is being mean spirited and says both the name and insignia are staying. Stuart was in the final stages of registering The Codfather trademark when she received a letter from Paramount Pictures' lawyers opposing the application and also asking them to stop using "The Godfather stylisation".
You can see the signage in the background of this picture of the owners.


When asked, the owners admit to the inspiration the film provided for the name and the signage, but say they're confused why Paramount is targeting them because they sell goddamn fish and not movies.

Stuart said she could understand Paramount being grumpy if she was planning to open a world-wide chain of Codfather Takeaways, but she was not.

"We are just a little fish and chip shop in a small corner of the world."
Not small enough, my dear, because the beautiful minds at Paramount are always searching for any violation. Now, there are a couple issues here. First, nobody anywhere at any time is going to think a New Zealand fish and chips shop is somehow affiliated with a Hollywood movie studio. Sorry, ain't gonna happen. Second, I defy anyone to draw a fish without it looking like Marlon Brando. It can't be done.

And finally, why the hell is Paramount bothering with this to begin with? There are any number of restaurants and chains called "The Codfather." A fish that looks like Brando really makes this one a priority?


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 4:11pm

    misleading title is misleading. It's clearly the typography they're bitching about, not the fish.

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

  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 13 Aug 2015 @ 4:38pm

    Ha ha ha... the fish looks like it is flipping the bird.

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

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 13 Aug 2015 @ 4:38pm

    My local chippy had best watch out. There's a definite case for disparagement of the name 'Goodfellas' since the chips (steak fries) at Codfellas are a bunch of crap.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 4:40pm

    That does it! I am never going to eat at Paramount again.

    Ok, I'm going to boycott their crappy movies instead.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 14 Aug 2015 @ 4:26am

      Re:

      I was pretty sure you were going to avidly watch movies at Codfather as a protest while avoiding Paramount food like the plague? But now I'm confused, Godfather was something edible?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 4:49pm

    To answer the question...

    And finally, why the hell is Paramount bothering with this to begin with? There are any number of restaurants and chains called "The Codfather."


    You quoted the answer:

    Stuart was in the final stages of registering The Codfather trademark
    .

    The answer is, because: trademark law.

    Trademarks have to be defended, or they go up in a puff of smoke. I bet you'll find that Paramount holds the trademark on The Godfather, and that they use it not just in movies, but in merchandise, including merchandise distributed through restaurant chains.

    Doesn't make it right, but that's the reason. If they hadn't applied for the mark, Paramount likely would have ignored them. And it raises the question: if there are any number of Codfathers out there, how on earth can this "small single restaurant" feel justified in claiming the mark for themselves? It's not just Paramount being silly here.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 6:26pm

      Re: To answer the question...

      But where did they apply for the trademark, New Zealand probably? Why the hell would an American company care if a Kiwi-land company registers a trademark with it's own government... not like they are competing in the same market or the Trademark jurisdiction overlaps... right?

      That's what I don't understand.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 8:26pm

      Re: To answer the question...

      Couldn't Paramount have just sent out the C&D as required, then called it off a week later? Alternatively, wouldn't negotiation (in their favor) count as "defending"? While trademark law does have defend or die rules, I've never heard anyone necessarily say the defense has to stick/"no backsies", or that negotiating after the fact isn't allowed.

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

    • identicon
      David, 14 Aug 2015 @ 12:42am

      Re: To answer the question...

      Why would Paramount even apply for a trademark for a generic term like "Godfather"?

      Fun fact: I live in a small town in Germany. There is a town-run youth cafe called "Yahoo". They even used the original red Yahoo! logo (IIRC with permission when Yahoo! was just a small startup: the cafe started in 1997) because they liked it and before Marissa Mayer messed with it (the logo, no idea about the trademark enforcement): the logos have diverged now.

      And without the logo similarity, any trademark to "Yahoo" would belong to Jonathan Swift anyway and would long have expired.

      But it did strike me as a sort of anachronism in all this current trademark madness that some backwater cafe shared a logo for at least a decade with Yahoo! without more of a justification than "oh, they liked it and asked for permission to use it". It was probably cool with the original founders when the company was small, and I could believe it to have been kept under the radar as an inside joke by the responsible contacts when the company exploded in size and the leadership changed.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 14 Aug 2015 @ 8:40am

      Re: To answer the question...

      "Trademarks have to be defended, or they go up in a puff of smoke."

      This is often an overstated thing. It is not true that every instance of perceived infringement must be attacked in order to keep the trademark. Also, I'm not familiar with Australian trademark law, but in the US this would not be a slam-dunk case of infringement.

      However, for the sake of argument, let's say that it is infringement and Paramount must do something about it or lose their trademark. There's a MUCH better way to do this: offer the restaurant a license for $1. Problem solved.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 8:58pm

    Apple vs Apfelkind

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/07/apfelkind-cafe-trademark-battle-apple-germany

    Given that, then if you are a restaurant aka in an industry that has nothing to do with the original product then from this case it seems to be safe to keep going.


    One thing that people should remember is that companies only have a trademark on certain areas. F.e. if they don't have a trademark on cars then I'd be free to create a car called the GODFATHER 1, 2, 3 ot 99 with a freaking Brando head as sign.

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

    • icon
      Sheogorath (profile), 14 Aug 2015 @ 3:07am

      Re: Apple vs Apfelkind

      [I]f you are a restaurant aka (sic) in an industry that has nothing to do with the original product, then from this case it seems to be safe to keep going.
      I already said that. Sheogorath ( profile), Aug 13th, 2015 @ 4:47pm

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

  • identicon
    Zem, 13 Aug 2015 @ 10:04pm

    Seeing this from the cod's pov

    Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in

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

  • identicon
    David, 13 Aug 2015 @ 10:42pm

    Frankly,

    if anybody should have a case here it should be Brando's next of kin (not the legal heirs but those having ties with the person). Depending on their sensitivities they might object to have their father's caricature flaunting fish. Not that "have case" automatically amounts to "win a case".

    But Paramount? Go away. A trademark on "Godfather"? Do they also have a trademark on "Fish"?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2015 @ 11:25pm

    I had no idea....

    that paramount owned Marlon Brando. When are we going to see his animated corpse in action?

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 14 Aug 2015 @ 3:53am

    They are in the same business.

    Both have products that stink.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Aug 2015 @ 5:58am

    antidirt just detests it when due process is enforced.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Aug 2015 @ 7:18am

    Theres something fishey about this story.maybe
    Lawyers looking for billing hours .
    Paramount have no business that sells food,
    except maybe a restaurant in a theme park .
    They have no trademark on codfather .
    Whose gonna go to a fish and chip shop looking to buy dvds, a moron in a hurry .
    That sign could be almost any male actor .

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

  • identicon
    John, 14 Aug 2015 @ 8:38am

    Yet in Spring Texas there is a Godfather's motors

    And the businesses sign is the logo from the movies title. It has been running for years without any notice.

    http://v.gd/dD3f6a

    That is not their sign but still takes from the original logo.

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

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 14 Aug 2015 @ 12:21pm

    that secret code the government is using to control our minds.

    hahaha! I broke that code long ago! What's that? They changed it? Damn....back to the newspapers!

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Aug 2015 @ 2:16pm

    I like the term "Mean spirited"

    Polite for being a total dick

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

  • identicon
    Sunhawk, 14 Aug 2015 @ 11:13pm

    I would note that trademark lawyers *do* have an incentive to find as many potential violations as possible.

    They get paid just about regardless of the outcome of a suit or a settlement, after all - and the more cases they run for a client, the more necessary they (and their fees) appear to be.

    And with the financial imbalance between a large company and a small outfit is sufficient that regardless of the merits, its quite likely the smaller party will just give in.

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

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 15 Aug 2015 @ 8:02am

    Licensee Complaints.

    I expect that Paramount probably has a licensing agreement with a certain American pizza chain, and part of the contract is not to grant additional licenses in ways which would create market confusion, or otherwise prejudice the licensee's business. Said pizza chain is probably the cause of the trademark complaint. They called up Paramount, and said, "do something about this!"

    A certain American pizza chain, of course, wants to retain the possibility of selling other kinds of food to its satisfied customers. It may even decide that a particular store does not work as a pizza restaurant, and decide to convert it into a fish and chips shop. It is not prima facie absurd to think that a "Codfather" store is run by said chain, and that the chain makes itself responsible for any cases of food poisoning which may ensue from the "Codfather" store.

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


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