Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce Trademark Bullies Kevin Smith's Podcast Over Hollywood Sign

from the likelihood-of-confusion? dept

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is somewhat infamous for its constant trademark bullying over the famed Hollywood sign (you know the one). Its latest target is apparently the Hollywood Babble-On podcast that is done as a live show each week by radio/podcast guy Ralph Garman and filmmaker/entertainer Kevin Smith. Before the show this past weekend, Garman had tweeted out that it might be the last Hollywood Babble-On ever. In the opening minutes of their latest episode, Garman explains that they've received a cease and desist letter from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce "re: unauthorized use of Hollywood stylized mark and Hollywood Walk of Fame mark."

While I haven't seen the full cease-and-desist letter, from what Garman said on the podcast, the issue is so ridiculous that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce should be called out for blatant trademark bullying. You see, while this is the normal logo/image promoting the podcast:

At times, they've used other images, such as this one:

It's that image that is apparently part of the problem (even though it's not clear how often it was used). The Chamber of Commerce is using the Hollywood style lettering, which is an approximation of the famous Hollywood sign, and the star behind their heads (which it apparently believes is an implied reference to the stars on Hollywood's walk of fame), to argue that this is unauthorized use of their marks. Some trademark lawyers will likely disagree, but this seems like classic trademark bullying.

If you're unfamiliar with the podcast (and I'll confess to being a loyal listener from Episode 1 through the latest, and got to see the show once live at Kevin's invitation after he was on our podcast a few years ago), it's a fun (frequently not safe for work) show looking at some highlights from the week's entertainment news, mixed in with a series of re-occurring bits, frequently involving Garman's rotating cast of impressions. In short, it's two funny guys, who are both in show business and have been for many years, goofing off talking about show business, frequently mocking some of the crazier news stories coming out of that business.

In other words, there's no way in hell that anyone in their right mind thinks that this podcast is officially sanctioned by "Hollywood" as some sort of official Hollywood product. The whole thing is kind of gently mocking some of Hollywood's sillier foibles. Indeed, this seems like a perfect use case for the old standby in trademark law: the "moron in a hurry" test. And, to make it more relevant to the hobbies of choice of Ralph and Kevin, I think it could be argued that neither a drunk, nor a stoned "moron in a hurry" would ever face even the slightest "likelihood of confusion" that Hollywood somehow had endorsed the podcast, just because it briefly had images showing slightly askew letters and a star.

It remains one of the more frustrating aspects of trademark law that so many people believe that it means you get total control over the marks in question. That's not how it's supposed to work. It's only in cases where there is a likelihood of confusion that people would be confused and believe that the mark holder is behind (or otherwise endorses) the products and services in question. And here, that seems pretty difficult to believe. Of course, rather than fight these kinds of things out, it's frequently much easier to just pay up, which may be what the lawyers for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce are banking on.


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 1:43pm

    Hollywood....

    Hey isn't Hollywood that obscure California city that all those film studios moved to in order to escape draconian patent lawsuits from Edison?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 2:05pm

    I don't even think of Hollywood as a company. It's a place and an industry. As far as I'm concerned the "Hollywood" trademark has already been genericized and probably shouldn't have been granted in the first place.

    The sign is a goddamned landmark not a billboard advertisement.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 2:31pm

      Re:

      Yeah, even if that mark was once valid, oh so long ago, it sure as hell isn't anymore. Hollywood now refers to the American film industry as a whole, as indicated by variations on the term, such as Bollywood, referring to the film industries of other countries.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Sep 2018 @ 6:04pm

      Re:

      The sign is a goddamned landmark not a billboard advertisement.

      Actually, it basically is a billboard advertisement. For "Hollywoodland", a 1920s housing development that had nothing to do with this chamber of commerce.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 19 Sep 2018 @ 2:47pm

    lol

    I'm sure this isn't just free advertising for Kevin Smith

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 12:20am

      Re: lol

      So what if it is? The podcast is pretty good, and if the Streisand effect helps advertise a good product rather than just exposing assholes for once, that's already a bonus.

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

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 2:52pm

    Next target: Deputies who wear their five-pointed star badges while patrolling Hollywood, Florida.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 4:09pm

      Re:

      I forgot about Hollywood Florida. What in the hell is the USPTO doing by giving a trademark for a place name when there is more than one place with that name, and more than one existed prior to the trademark application? What dolts.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 5:01pm

        Re: Re:

        It's not a trademark on the word "Hollywood"; it's a trademark on the Hollywood sign.

        It's still a bad trademark, but not for the reason you're saying.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 5:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You might be right..but:

          "The Chamber of Commerce is using the Hollywood style lettering, which is an approximation of the famous Hollywood sign, and the star behind their heads (which it apparently believes is an implied reference to the stars on Hollywood's walk of fame), to argue that this is unauthorized use of their marks."

          This statement might suggest lettering style and the use of a star.

          "While I haven't seen the full cease-and-desist letter..."

          While this one leaves the actual reason up in the air. I am conjecturing that the fact that they used the term 'Hollywood' is what the Chamber has their shorts in a twist about. Then there's that star thing. Is it possible that any representation of a star, on its own, could be trademarked? There are times when a star is part of a more complex logo that it is, but without the rest of the logo...?

          However, if it is only lettering style (how could that be trademarked?) it would explain why the Hollywood Reporter hasn't gotten their own, frame-able, cease and desist letter. Could be cause for jealousy. Is that actionable?

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 12:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "it's a trademark on the Hollywood sign"

          A trademark on 2/3 of the original sign, no less. One that almost fell completely to ruin before people demanded it be fixed, too.

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

        • identicon
          shon, 6 Oct 2018 @ 10:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Wrong again Thad!

          A trademark is a trademark. How do you trademark a sign, Einstein?

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

          • identicon
            Rich, 6 Oct 2018 @ 10:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It has been legally trademarked as follows:

            “Thd Chamber actually owns about a half-dozen related trademarks, not in the image of the Hollywood sign itself or the actual sign itself, but in the word “HOLLYWOOD” when depicted in the aforementioned staggered, blocky typeface”

            So anytime someone uses the similar typeface with the staggered letters, that is when they infringe

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

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 20 Sep 2018 @ 9:13am

        Re: Re:

        There's a Hollywood, Maryland, too; it's not far from California, Maryland. Both are in Saint Mary's County, in the south of the state.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    gamers and comics people of the world united, 20 Sep 2018 @ 6:42am

    ASK KEVIN ABOUT #ANNUSGATE

    ASK KEVIN ABOUT #ANNUSGATE

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


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