Trademark

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
hbo, it's not tv, trademark, wagga wagga

Companies:
hbo, waggawagga.tv



It's Not HBO, It's Wagga Wagga, Yo!

from the wagga-wagga dept

It shouldn't be news to anyone who reads Techdirt that HBO is rather well known for being overly protective of its intellectual property. Still, there are times when even those we know to be prickly on these matters pick a fight that has me scratching my head. One such example is the recent news that HBO decided to challenge the trademark registration of an itty bitty regional online television streaming group in Australia.

WaggaWagga.TV, an online live streaming service catering primarily to the people of the southern NSW town, was threatened with a trademark challenge with HBO's lawyers claiming its tagline "It's not TV. It's dot TV" was too similar to HBO's "It's not TV. It's HBO."

"We run an online TV station with local based content where the target audience is Wagga Wagga which has about 66,000 people in it," said Adam Drummond who heads the two person WaggaWagga.TV operation. "I was bit horrified when I got the letter in the post and it was from the Sydney lawyer representing HBO. At first I thought it was a gag."
But, of course, it wasn't a gag. This regional streaming service, offered to a local area and featuring such content as local news, amateur theatrical productions, and the like, came up with a logo and tagline that is about as similar to HBO's as a fine bottle of wine is to my left foot. The imagery, the logos, the fonts...none of it is similar. The only likeness is the phrase "It's not TV." That's it.


Chance of confusion? Yeah, no chance at all. But that didn't stop HBO from opposing the trademark under the notion that there was too much similarity and consumers might be confused. This is normally the part of the story where the smaller entity would become frightened and bow to whatever the wishes of HBO might be, suffering any consequences of doing so in silence. Drummond, however, chose not to back down but instead chose to engage with HBO to try to convince them that there was no threat or possibility of confusion here. Turns out this actually worked.

The actor, turned real estate agent, traded a series of legal letters with HBO's lawyers before being able to convince them not to contest the trademark. However HBO's lawyers are reserving their rights.

"It does feel like a win. We are doing 14 hour days there are only two of us," he said. "There is one production person and then there is myself and between us we are scripting everything, producing, shooting, editing and on top of that doing sales as well."
Which is all well and good, but did HBO really need someone to explain to them that a tiny regional streamer with a barely similar tagline wasn't a fight worth picking?


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Oct 2015 @ 11:54pm

    But but but people might be mislead and think that HBO is behind this tiny little company, and expect Game of Thrones to air online!!!

    Its not trademark, its earning our retainer.

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

  • identicon
    John, 20 Oct 2015 @ 11:56pm

    But HBO isn't even in Australia

    An Australian consumer can't signup for any of HBO's streaming products without using VPN or other services to pretend to be in the USA. You can purchase HBO DVDs or watch their shows via Foxtel (pay TV) but they are not streaming services. How can they honestly believe there is confusion when they don't have a streaming service in Australia? Another example of an American company thinking the USA is the World & therefore their laws apply in every country.

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

  • identicon
    David, 21 Oct 2015 @ 1:08am

    Huh?

    Which is all well and good, but did HBO really need someone to explain to them that a tiny regional streamer with a barely similar tagline wasn't a fight worth picking?

    Are you nuts? Those are the low-hanging fruit. If your legal department is supposed to provide a dependable revenue stream, those are exactly the people you want to be shaking down.

    It's all part of the corporate landscape evolution that has turned a legal department from an unavoidable cost of doing business to a major revenue source.

    There is a "copyright industry" but no "photographer industry" or "book writer industry" or "musician industry".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 4:04am

    Descriptive

    Since it is in fact NOT TV, then the line used by Wagga Wagga is in fact descriptive.

    "Generally, use of another’s trademark is permissible—that is, it is considered a “fair use” that does not infringe a trademark right—in two types of situations: descriptive fair use and nominative fair use"
    http://www.inta.org/TrademarkBasics/FactSheets/Pages/FairUse.aspx

    Open and shut case?

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

    • icon
      MrTroy (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Descriptive

      Generally, use of another’s trademark is permissible


      Note that HBO was opposing waggawagga.tv's registration of their own trademark, not opposing waggawagga.tv's use of "It's not tv".

      Seems to me like they could have avoided this whole brou-ha-ha by not trying to register the trademark themselves. I mean, now they potentially become the trademark trolls, needing to police (or license) anyone else using the phrase in Australia. Win for the little guy perhaps, but this doesn't seem like a win for the public. Not a loss, perhaps, but that's a low bar.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 5:31am

    That's insane, the 2 slogans are nothing alike

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 6:14am

    It's Not Delivery. It's DiGiorno.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 6:46am

    Human Body Odor

    HBO
    Its not TV, it stinks!

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

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 12:02pm

    New Tagline

    "WaggaWagga.TV -- We're not HBO, you blithering idiots!"

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

  • icon
    Locutus (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 1:08pm

    Wagga Wagga TV

    It's all very simple. WaggaWagga TV should change the first line to, "IT ISN'T TV". End of problem -- and no, I haven't copyrighted the line!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 1:39pm

    "It's not TV. It's dot TV" was too similar to HBO's "It's not TV. It's HBO."

    Oh my lord, are you freaking kidding me, we're copyrighting sentences now

    "It's not TV. It's fuc**ing bulls**t"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 1:45pm

    New Tagline

    It's not HBO. We're not cunts.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2015 @ 2:58am

    New Tagline

    It's not HBO. We're not cunts.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2016 @ 10:33am

    New Tagline

    It's not HBO. We're not cunts.

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


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