from the trademark-farce dept
Last fall, a few people sent me this fun video from YouTuber Allen Pan, which briefly talks about how he ended up with a MythBusters trademark for clothing and apparel. I didn’t write it up at the time because, while amusing, the discussion of the trademark (and, for that matter, copyright) issues was so confused that it was difficult to know what was accurate and what wasn’t.
The story began when Pan made a video in which he built robotic legs for a snake. It’s, well, it’s quite something:
Apparently, CNN posted his video without credit or seeking permission or a license. It’s a little unclear from Pan’s description how CNN framed the story and if they even mentioned him or not, but Pan claims he was told this was legal because of fair use, since CNN is a journalism org. He then goes on a bit of a wild ride in the (confused and mostly inaccurate) belief that fair use only applies to journalism organizations.
So he sets up a “parody” news organization, Canadian Unified Media, or CUM with a logo, that, well, looks like it’s parodying CNN.
Though, as he was working on that video, it appears his complaining about CNN on Twitter resulted in CNN offering him $1,000 to license the video they already had used (which may or may not have been fair use). Pan claims that he took the money and… registered a MythBusters apparel trademark that had been abandoned during the Warner Bros./Discovery merger.
This was all a bit of a closing of the circle for Pan, who had been on the short-lived MythBusters: The Search reality TV show, in which Discovery searched for new MythBusters hosts after the original show had gone off the air. Pan was eliminated in the second to last episode of the series.
And, of course, thanks to the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, now both MythBusters and CNN were under the same corporate umbrella. So, in some weird way, all of this kinda, but not really, made sense.
Of course, if you look closely at the trademark I screenshotted above, it says only that Pan is the applicant for the trademark, and also notes that he had to publish it for opposition earlier this year — meaning that his claim to have owned the trademark last year was, not quite accurate. He was working towards getting it, but was certainly not in the clear.
And, it seems that when it was published for opposition earlier this year, Warner Bros. Discovery opposed.
Which leads us to Pan’s latest video, which is again… confusing and not entirely clear where the actual legal arguments lie, or where the “I’m just a nutty YouTuber doing nutty stuff” begin. But, still, it’s amusing.
Basically, Warner Bros. Discovery sent him trademark nastygram telling him he had to destroy all the merch. They also sent his merch company a cease and desist for the CUM shirts (but not the MythBusters shirts). This all seems somewhat confusing, as the CUM shirts seem like pretty clear parody. But, Pan just says he spoke to some lawyers who told him he’d lose, and therefore he’s agreed to capitulate.
He agreed to burn the shirts, and shows himself doing so. Though, somehow, he claims he convinced Warner Bros. Discovery to let him try to sell out of his inventory of MythBusters shirts for another week or so, and that they let him do this (though over the weekend it appears all the merch sold out, even though he was supposed to have it through this week). Again… this doesn’t quite make sense, given the overall situation. It does seem likely that they could block him from getting the trademark. So, it seems like they had no real basis for destroying the CUM shirts, but a real basis for preventing him from selling the MythBusters shirts, and yet the opposite outcome happened.
Pan, of course, is doing what he does best, and turning the whole situation into more content, which is basically how the world works these days, no matter what the reality of the trademark and copyright situations might be.