So, we recently posted a bizarre story in the form of a law school exam question involving the attempt to trademark a public domain monkey selfie using a photoshopped Gap catalog image
. If that doesn't make sense to you, go read the original story. My fingers are too tired to re-explain the whole thing here. Just know that it's as bizarre as it sounds.
And, now it gets even more bizarre. As we noted, the original trademark application appeared
to come from Saban Capital Group, the company controlled by media mogul Haim Saban. Saban's lawyers reached out to explain that... the trademark application appears to come from someone pretending to be Haim Saban
or his company. Whoever it is (and we've reached out to them) has apparently set up a fake "Saban Capital Group" in the British Virgin Islands, and has filed over 200 trademark applications, some in the name of Saban Capital Group (and some as others). In retrospect, there are some hints that something is not right if you dig deep into the trademark application
, including the hotmail email address and the fact that the application is signed by "Tiwhk." Also, it's being sent from Ann Arbor Michigan, rather than LA where Saban Capital Group is actually based. But, almost all of that can be explained away as just some old fashioned way of doing things and/or from a remote/subsidiary address or something.
And, really, who the hell files trademark applications in someone else's name
? The whole idea is bizarre, so it didn't even cross my mind.
Saban's (actual) lawyers agree, noting that the real Saban would not "actually do something as foolish as this," and they have no idea who is actually doing it -- but whoever it is has apparently filed over 200 trademark applications. The real Saban Capital Group's lawyers say they're investigating and suggest that the filer/s "appear to be infringers, or counterfeiters, or hoaxers or all of the foregoing" and they "intend to prosecute them to the full extent of the law." I don't see 200 applications, but there are a few others, such as this one
, using Chinese characters, which the application claims means "Big Mouth Monkey" which they want to put on clothing (they show it on a pair of shoes). I have, in fact, confirmed that it does, in fact, say "Big Mouth Monkey" with someone who can read Chinese. So, at least that is accurate. And there's this one
for a stylized version of the name "Paul Homme" (I have no idea who that is). Or this one
for "BIG FACE" (no further explanation needed).
Either way, I've emailed the Hotmail address behind these filings, but as of this posting have not heard back. The real lawyers for Saban seem perplexed by the whole situation as well -- as do multiple trademark experts I've spoken to. No one's quite sure why anyone would file trademarks under someone else's company's name, but it adds yet another element to the crazy law school exam question we had in the original post. Here might be a case where actual trademarks
are being violated (that of Saban Capital Group). Hell, I would bet some high priced lawyers might even try to figure out a way to argue that publicity rights are implicated here, though I'm not sure I'd recommend that...
Either way, we'd like to apologize to Haim Saban and (the real) Saban Capital Group for implying that they would file a questionable trademark on a public domain monkey selfie for use on clothing (including wedding dresses) as demonstrated by a photoshopped Gap catalog photo. And, "Tiwhk," if you're out there, please contact us. We'd love to know your side of the story...