Warner Media Opposes Trademark Filed By Actual 'Wicked Witch' Over Its Wizard Of Oz Trademarks

from the witch-marks? dept

Thanks to the convoluted nonsense that is copyright law, readers here will likely be familiar with the insanity that is intellectual property rights revolving around The Wizard of Oz. Thanks to some of the works being in the public domain, some of them being under copyright, and the courts mostly treating all of this on a case by case basis, it's fairly clear at this point that basically nobody knows who is allowed to do what with anything associated with The Wizard of Oz. Usually, issues relating to the work revolve around this axis of confusion.

But that's less the case when it comes to trademark issues. For all of its flaws, trademark law is blessedly limited to public confusion and true competition within a specific market. That's what makes it bewildering that Warner would bother to oppose the trademark application filed by a pagan priestess for her "Wicked Witch Mojo" brand.

Turner Entertainment Company has filed an opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to stop witch and Pagan elder Dorothy Morrison from trademarking her brand name ‘Wicked Witch Mojo.” Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, serves as the copyright holder for a large library of productions made by its sister subsidiary Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (aka, Warner Brothers), that includes The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Morrison said, “I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that Turner Entertainment could have A] been allowed to trademark the phrase ‘Wicked Witch,’ and B] that they had accused me of deliberately weakening their trademark.” She said that, after the shock wore off, she was just angry. “It occurred to me that if Turner saw fit to go after me, there was nothing to stop them from going after anyone in the magical community who’d ever used that phrase. And I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow that to happen,” she explained.

And so she contacted a lawyer and there is now a case pending. Warner's lawyer apparently discussed the case with her lawyer, refused to budge on the opposition, and suggested that she could be sued for copyright as well for using some imagery in her branding, specifically red-heeled shoes on her business cards. That, and of course, the characters that Warner claims are being referenced in her name and branding.

And that's where we get right back into the confusing bullshit.

Morrison’s attorney Richard Bullock argues otherwise, saying that these images and words recall the books, not the movie. Bullock writes, “The marks are derived from the writings of L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its various sequels.”

He also argues that Turner’s trademarks are only limited to certain product areas, and that Turner is not likely to be moving into the metaphysical arena; nor will Morrison be producing products for the mainstream toy or clothing markets, and other industries specified within Turner’s trademarks. Bullock wrote that there would be “no likelihood of confusion.”

The latter part referencing the trademark oppositions are almost certainly valid. Nothing in Morrison's actual trade dress brings The Wizard of Oz to mind at all, regardless of its various forms. Certain references to that work, such as her online marketplace being dubbed "The Flying Monkey Express" can be said to reference the books, not the films. And that really only matters on the copyright question, for which a suit hasn't been filed. On the trademark piece, it really should be enough that Warner isn't in the religion business. With no crossover of marketplaces, there is no serious concern for public confusion.

So, in the end, we have a large company trying to push around a real life wicked witch over a specious trademark claim. Warner executives should be thankful, I suppose, that Morrison doesn't have an actual army of flying monkeys to set upon them.


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 6:47pm

    Timothy tees up humorous consideration of IP idiocy.

    OK, a few questions come to mind. First, is she a licensed wicked witch? If not, then she might be violating some local codes, which has nothing to do with the copyright or trademark claims unless the Turner Entertainment Company is accepting that she is in fact a wicked witch. Then one might want to consider whether that license was for ordinary witchery or with a wicked endorsement?

    Second, I took a look at the linked article but did not see any shoes so the question remains were those shoes slippers or stilettos? If one, then one might suggest that slippers come in various forms and may or may not be the form used in the movie, but another form that was imagined from the book.

    Next, or C depending upon ones method for counting, how the hell is Turner Entertainment Company going to prove that they were infringing on the movie rather than the book?

    And finally, or IV to keep the meme in line, I would suspect that witch that she is, there are numerous spells being concocted as we sleep and I am awaiting with baited breath to see what impact those spells have on Turner Entertainment Company or any of their executives. Then, get the popcorn cooker warmed up, their attempts to claim that such spells not only took place but have some chain of verifiable evidence that links back to said witch.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2018 @ 8:09am

      Re: Timothy tees up humorous consideration of IP idiocy.

      "I am awaiting with baited breath to see what impact those spells have on Turner Entertainment Company or any of their executives."


      Well, too late for the lawyer... someone already turned him into an ignorant jackass.

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

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 12 Oct 2018 @ 8:37pm

    I'm going to assume that she's doing this to get enough discovery to get together a list of names to be cursed.

    Otherwise she's not a very wicked witch.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Oct 2018 @ 10:29am

      "Wicked" in the sense of New England Parlance

      Wicked! is like Awesome! or Radical! or Bitchin! (or more recently Lit!) meaning delightful, not evil.

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

      • identicon
        Will B., 13 Oct 2018 @ 1:31pm

        Re: "Wicked" in the sense of New England Parlance

        ...not in the books, nor in the movies, nor anywhere in the world except New England, which is neither where the witch in question was born nor where she currenly resides.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2018 @ 8:58pm

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900.

    If anyone has a claim, the Baum estate does, and I seriously doubt it, as the work is in the public domain.

    Heck, I'd put Gregory Maguire's or Schwartz and Holzman before MGM - at least they've used the character recently.

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

    • identicon
      Paul Brinker, 12 Oct 2018 @ 10:25pm

      Re:

      This is a trademark claim, so the books have nothing to do with it. She would have had to copy parts of the movie, instead she took elements of the book. There is no copyright claim as of now and I doubt they could make one with out splitting hairs on what elements are in the movie but not in the book.

      All this comes down to is the fact that Turner has a trademark on Wicked Witch (perhaps they have licensed the play "Wicked". But to be fair, they dont mark most material with "Wicked Witch" they only mark it with "The Wizard of Oz" or the play as "Wicked".

      So at best, they are trying to say that the "Wicked" Mark for plays and movies (and related merch), somehow is related to an actual witch.

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

    • identicon
      John Smith, 13 Oct 2018 @ 1:15am

      Re:

      Public domain?! LIES! Damned lies, I tell you!

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

  • identicon
    Jeff, 12 Oct 2018 @ 10:35pm

    Slippers

    In the book, the slippers are silver.

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

  • identicon
    She Turnered me into a newt, 13 Oct 2018 @ 12:36am

    I... got better

    I thought the Wizard of Oz was whichever sporting hero was flavour of the month in Australia.

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

    • identicon
      tracyanne, 13 Oct 2018 @ 5:53pm

      Re: I... got better

      There has never, to my knowledge, been a Wizard of Aus, we did have a genuine Wizard of Christchurch once.

      He held a position just outside the Christchurch Cathedral, where,among other things, he advocated strongly to have the world map inverted so that New Zealand would appear in its rightful place – at the top.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymong, 13 Oct 2018 @ 12:54am

    Suspicion

    I think the phrases "pagan priestess" and "real life wicked witch" deserves quotes around them in the article.

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

    • identicon
      tracyanne, 13 Oct 2018 @ 7:04pm

      Re: Suspicion

      Well Pagan Priestess is actually a thing, so no.

      "real life wicked witch", not so much.

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

      • identicon
        Bruce C., 14 Oct 2018 @ 1:27pm

        Re: Re: Suspicion

        Considering current events, or more accurately, current revelations about past events, putting quotes around Catholic "priest" makes just as much sense as pagan "priestess". It's good to have options when you want to make a point about a particular person, but as a general thing neither should be quoted like that.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 13 Oct 2018 @ 4:28am

    "Flying Monkeys" would more likely refer to the cadre of lawyers from a certain corporation.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2018 @ 5:28am

    If the shoes are red, it's a clear reference to the movie, not the book, which changed the color from the original silver to showcase their new color movie technology.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2018 @ 5:51am

      Re:

      Why is it necessary a reference to the movie, as red is also a common color to refer to 'wicked' women.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2018 @ 2:31pm

        Re: Re:

        With the other very clear and admitted references to the story the presence of ruby heels on her business cards is a rather clear reference to the movie. She has a theme going; If the shoes weren't a reference to the story they'd be rather out of place on her business cards.

        Summary: She's kinda boned.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2018 @ 2:30pm

      Re:

      I don't think that's correct. I recall seeing the original WoO in all its black and white glory (several times, it was an annual ritual) on a color TV and they were referred to as ruby slippers even then. It was much later the film was "colorized"..

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

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Oct 2018 @ 7:03pm

        Technicolor

        The 1939 release of the film showcased technicolor, and the ruby slippers were changed from silver (in the book) for that purpose. The scenes in Kansas were filmed in black and white, and then the scenes in Oz (and neighboring regions) were always technicolor.

        Since 1956, The Wizard of Oz was broadcast on CBS. While color televisions were available at the time, they were very expensive, so most people who hadn't experienced Wizard in theaters saw an entirely black-and-white version.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Oct 2018 @ 1:17pm

      Red shoes

      If the graphics on the source article are indicative, there are no red shoes, only the color red on Dorothy Morrison's placard, so Turner is going cuckoo over wicked witch, a color and Morrison's real name.

      I suspect if she chose green instead of red, they'd still be arguing it had to do with the WWW's green pallor.

      Unless turner is looking to run a line of WWW looking to make some scented candles or something, I suspect it's trademark overreach. Doesn't mean Morrison has a case against Turner's immense legal war chest, though. Certainly the current SCOTUS would rule in favor of the big company, if it got that far.

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

  • identicon
    Christine O'Donnell, 13 Oct 2018 @ 6:15am

    I will reiterate .. I am NOT a witch!!!

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

  • identicon
    carlb, 13 Oct 2018 @ 8:38am

    She turned me into a newt!

    Well, it got better...

    That said, if Wicca is a religion, shouldn't it have the same constitutional protections as flying spaghetti and all the rest?

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

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 13 Oct 2018 @ 8:52am

      Re: She turned me into a newt!

      If Islam decided to use Mickey Mouse as the iconography of Allah, there might be a case for that.

      And, of course, any nut can proclaim that Buzz Lightyear is the One True God and claim Constitutional Protection.

      Would make for an interesting read, at least.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Oct 2018 @ 1:29pm

      Religious protections

      Thanks to a well-stacked court, Christianity is more privileged than non-Christian faiths in the United States and Catholicism and Baptists have more privileges than the rest.

      Although some have specific special privileges, such as First Nation gatherings being able to partake of peyote, and Santería churches being aloud to butcher live chickens within city limits. As late as the 1990s those were often licensed dispensations.

      The 1970s workaround was to apply to be ordained by the Universalist Unitarian Church. It was free (now it's online and free) and the UUC did this as a service just to provide anyone in the US clergy privileges if they wanted them, such as the right to perform marriage ceremonies. (Also discounts at some resellers!)

      Nowadays, after rulings like Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop, there may be extensive privileges to being an accredited clergyperson with closely held religious values.

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

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 13 Oct 2018 @ 8:49am

    Public Domain

    Have to wonder... Disney has been getting away with it for... well... ever.

    The books that the movie was based on are Public Domain. How did Turner Copyright *not* the story, but elements of it found in a PD writing?

    I can see them getting Copyright on elements that were changed in the movie - the silver slippers becoming ruby slippers, but the character appellations are the same in the books and the movie.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Oct 2018 @ 7:27pm

      Re: Public Domain

      The Golden Rule: The one with the gold makes the rules.

      Throw enough money to bankrupt the other side and you can basically create your own law(or at least your own interpretation) out of scratch. Doesn't matter if you're actually in the right legally, so long as you have more money to burn than the other person.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2018 @ 2:42pm

    This is warner bros. Who've filed take downs on DISNEY and other rival products.

    FFS they tried to take down the Marvel MMU filing "automated" DCMA after DCMA trying to get Infinity War blocked.
    DMCAs were fully human-processed but they just lied their asses off and said it was a computer system.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2018 @ 3:03pm

    Only with the inclusion of a company like Warner Media could there legitimately be a story with the wicked witch as the good guy.

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


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