S Is For Streisand: Sesame Street Decides To Offer Free Promotion To R-Rated Muppet Satire By Filing Trademark Claim

from the no-infringement,-all-trademark dept

If you're of a certain age, then you will remember fondly Sesame Street, the educational programming once found on public broadcasting and now relegated to those with HBO subscriptions. The series dedicated its time to teaching children their letters and numbers, how to navigate childhood, and, above all, how to be kind to one another.

The Happytime Murders, an R-rated film from the warped mind of Melissa McCarthy, which also has puppets at its center, is not Sesame Street. It features drug use, vulgar language, violence, sex, and the kind of anti-PC humor more akin to South Park than anything appearing on Sesame Street. To that end, it has used a tagline in its marketing material that reads "No Sesame. All Street." It specifically sets itself apart from the famed children's show, which is what made it somewhat odd that Sesame Workshop attempted to get a restraining order against The Happytime Murders over trademark concerns.

According to Sesame's application for a temporary restraining order, "Defendants’ widely-distributed marketing campaign features a just-released trailer with explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets, along with the tagline 'NO SESAME. ALL STREET.' Defendants do not own, control or have any right to use the SESAME STREET mark. Instead, they are distributing a trailer that deliberately confuses consumers into mistakenly believing that Sesame is associated with, has allowed, or has even endorsed or produced the movie and tarnishes Sesame’s brand."

Readers of this site will recognize how absurd this all is from the get go. Nothing in the marketing material or tagline suggests that Sesame Street is in any way connected to The Happytime Murders. In fact, the exact opposite impression was the entire goal here, and it is a goal certainly achieved. The whole point of the tagline is that this new movie is not connected with Sesame Street. This sort of use, particularly given that the use didn't actually use the full trademark consecutively, is widely accepted as either fair use or simply non-infringing. Meanwhile, of course, the actions of the Sesame Street people essentially has served as free and wonderful advertising for The Happytime Murders. What Sesame's legal team was thinking with all of this is beyond me.

But the law was not beyond the judge that heard each side's oral arguments. The TRO request was denied, with the judge stating flatly that there was no public confusion Sesame Street could point to in any of this. Not willing to lose out on the continued publicity, The Happytime Murders trotted out its puppet lawyer, Fred esq., to comment on the ruling.

"We fluffing love Sesame Street and we're obviously very pleased that the ruling reinforced what STX's intention was from the beginning — to honor the heritage of The Jim Henson Company's previous award-winning creations while drawing a clear distinction between any Muppets or Sesame Street characters and the new world Brian Henson and team created. We believe we accomplished this with the very straightforward NO SESAME, ALL STREET tagline. We look forward to continued happytimes as we prepare to release Happytime Murders this summer."

Meanwhile, it would be nice if the lawyers behind a notable childhood staple of a television show would cease fluffing with the work of other artists.


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  1. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 10:59am

    Muppet Murder Madness

    Now, if Miss Piggy was to go after Kermit and The Cookie Monster with, oh let's say a blowtorch, and that had been the premise of the movie, then the Sesame Workshop folks might have had some argument, though it might not have been trademark.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:16am

    Re: Muppet Murder Madness

    Now, if Miss Piggy was to go after Kermit and The Cookie Monster with, oh let's say a blowtorch

    That sounds like more of a Swedish Chef thing to do:

    "Makin der froogy ligs au flambé, hrr hrr hrr."

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

  3. icon
    firebird2110 (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:21am

    Yup, full on Streisand. I've now seen the trailer and want to watch the movie. Good one Sesame Workshop.

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

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    usa get ready for trade war, 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:25am

    usa get ready for trade war

    I see no mention of how this might affect tech sectors as Canada imports a lot a pcs from th eusa , we might go AMD in long run and do 100% end run around all american tech

    This is gonna get trumpaliciously ugly you idiots elected him...

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:28am

    puppet trademarks

    A key question is, who owns the trademarks on those muppet characters that became synonymous with Sesame Street? Since this movie is being done by the Jim Henson Company, even if they used the identical Sesame Street characters and not just similar-looking ones, Sesame Street Inc. might not have a legal leg to stand on.

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

  6. identicon
    Thad, 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:31am

    Re: usa get ready for trade war

    ...did you mean to respond to an article that wasn't about an R-rated puppet movie?

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

  7. icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:47am

    ..deliberately confuses consumers..

    Yet again, portraying their own fans as morons.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:59am

    Normally I agree in attempts to cover up something. But I don't think Sesame Streets goal was to cover anything up but instead to make it known they don't support the movie at all. While there is likely no standing, at least everyone now knows that Sesame Street is in no way supporting the movie.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 11:59am

    If this is honoring what Henson’s company has done, I would hate to see what dishonoring it looks like.

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

  10. identicon
    kallethen, 1 Jun 2018 @ 12:11pm

    P is for "parody."

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

  11. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    Pretty sure anyone who thought that they supported it before would be too stupid to have turned on the computer to watch it in the first place and get confused.

    However, even assuming people that stupid exist(I'm sure they do), the legal system is not there for PR purposes. They could have easily put out a statement making it clear that no, they are in no way involved in, or support the content of, The Happytime Murders without abusing the legal system in the process.

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

  12. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 12:43pm

    'We must protect our stupid, STUPID fans from confusion!'

    Yeah, funny how that seems to work out in trademark cases like this, where you've got companies basically arguing that their fans are so incredibly stupid that they will get confused by pretty much anything even remotely similar to their product.

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 1:02pm

    Re: puppet trademarks

    They seem to be claiming that any puppet made using the same techniques as muppet characters are automatically covered by their trademark. None of the puppets used in the trailer are Sesame Street characters. This screams "F is for Frivolous Lawsuit" to me.

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous, 1 Jun 2018 @ 1:05pm

    Meet the Feebles

    Not the first sex/drugs/mayhem puppet show. This is one of Peter Jackson's earlier efforts: Meet the Feebles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FON5KnEKRe

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Meet the Feebles

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Re: usa get ready for troll war

    Obviously the Coward can't keep track of all the many many places and names he has logged in to troll.

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

  17. icon
    sumgai (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re:

    However, even assuming people that stupid exist...

    You are aware of who's currently sitting in the White House, and how he got there, yes?

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

  18. identicon
    Thad, 1 Jun 2018 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Meet the Feebles

    They're not your average, ordinary people.

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

  19. identicon
    Khaki Munster, 1 Jun 2018 @ 4:58pm

    Crummy case, got no chance, anyway.
    On my way, and with Barbra I'll meet.
    Can you tell me how to get,
    how to get to Streisand Street?

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

  20. identicon
    Thad, 1 Jun 2018 @ 5:07pm

    Re:

    Meter needs work.

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

  21. identicon
    Jeffry Houser, 1 Jun 2018 @ 8:36pm

    Why does Melissa McCarthy get credit?

    Why do you say the movie is from the warped mind of Melissa McCarthy?

    Based on the Wikipedia page, it just sounds like she is an actor who did some minor uncredited re-writes.

    Would it be more accurate to say the movie is from the mind of Todd Berger [the writer] or Brian Henson[the Director]?

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

  22. identicon
    Khaki Munster, 1 Jun 2018 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re:

    That's probably because the cowbell is away for cleaning.

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

  23. icon
    Bergman (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 9:47pm

    Re:

    This. I had no idea such a movie even existed, until the good old Streisand Effect kicked in.

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

  24. icon
    Bergman (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 9:49pm

    Re: puppet trademarks

    Sesame Workshop is basically claiming that anyone using their favorite artistic medium -- that they didn't invent -- is somehow infringing upon their rights.

    By the same logic, if you sculpt a marble statue using a hammer and chisels, you could then sue anyone who also made a marble sculpture using a hammer and chisels, even if the first statue is of an elephant and the second guy likes to sculpt trees.

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

  25. icon
    Bergman (profile), 1 Jun 2018 @ 9:51pm

    Re:

    So Sesame Workshop is declaring that their works are not suitable for children, because their customers would be confused between their works and an R-rated movie?

    Duly noted.

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

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2018 @ 10:25pm

    Re: Re:

    I think you are underestimating the power of stupid people.

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

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2018 @ 4:08am

    Re: Re:

    Ditto. As a long time fan of anything "Muppet" related (I grew up during the era of The Muppet Show), I'm really looking forward to seeing what Brian and gang have managed to cobble together. Looks good IMHO and I have Sesame Workshop to thank for letting me know lol.

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

  28. identicon
    Clifford Chappell, 28 Jun 2018 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re: puppet trademarks

    No Sesame, All Street screams "Sesame Street", doesn't it?

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


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