May 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2011

  • The Economist on the future of the legal business;
  • Hairpin reversals of fortune in long-running Barbie v. Bratz doll fight [Cal Biz Lit, earlier]
  • As I note in Schools for Misrule, institutional reform litigation is alive and well: Reinhardt says 9th Circuit should take over VA’s mental health efforts, Kozinski dissents [LAT, AP, The Recorder]
  • Court rejects Koch suit over spoof website posing as Koch’s to make political points [EFF, earlier]
  • “Romeo and Juliet” amendment could soften harsh Texas sex-offense laws [Lenore Skenazy] Law isn’t especially protective of teen boys persuaded to sign paternity declarations [Amy Alkon]
  • “Disney Trademarks ‘Seal Team 6′” [Atlantic Wire]
  • Great moments in human rights law: UK high court rules airplane hijackers should have been admitted to country as refugees [five years ago on Overlawyered]

{ 9 comments }

1 John Bratt 05.16.11 at 7:38 am

So, was the Koch suit “frivolous?” A calculated attempt to use litigation to oppress legitimate policital criticism? Something tells me that if AAJ filed a similar suit, Overlawyered would take more notice than a line item in the daily roundup.

2 Don 05.16.11 at 9:29 am

How can private companies take the name of a military unit and trademark it?

If I started a business of selling model boats, could I trademark the name of all US Navy ships?

I think all these companies should be paying licensing fees to the US Defense Department for using the names of military units in their products.

3 wfjag 05.16.11 at 5:30 pm

Don:
It may depend on what they produce under that name and how it can be used. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 716, Public employee insignia and uniform; 18 U.S.C. § 701, Official badges, identification cards, other insignia; 18 U.S.C. § 1028, Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information; 18 U.S.C. § 912, falsely assuming or pretending to be an Officer or employee of the United States. If the products can reasonably be confused with official government ones, there are problems. But, otherwise, Disney can likely produce what it pleases.

If they bring out a “Seal Team Six” line of toys, like the “G.I. Joe” line of toys, there likely isn’t a problem since no one confuses the G.I. Joe toys, etc., with anything official with respect to the U.S. Government. In fact, after the G.I. Joe movie, apparently there no longer is any representation of any association with the U.S. (apparently, sort of like Superman and Captain America).

To prevent such from occurring, the Army has trademarked various of its logos and mottos (e.g., “Army Strong” is trademarked).

Of course, since Disney is a commercial company, nothing stops Navy SEALs and their supporters from organizing protests. I suspect that there are a lot of vets, including quite a few wounded ones, who would be willing to picket Disney Stores and picket outside of movie theaters showing Disney movies, and hand out flyers outside of retail stores selling Disney products urging consumers to boycott Disney and its products. Even a small drop in sales and movie revenues would probably convince Disney’s corporate masters to assign trademark rights to SEAL Team Six and related names to the Navy.

4 Bill Poser 05.16.11 at 7:00 pm

What concerns me about this trademark is not so much dolls and that sort of thing as the use of the term in titles of films, books, and so forth. Anyone should be able to make a film about this unit, and to give it a title that identifies it as such, both because it may involve political or cultural commentary and because the development of the brand, as it were, was done by the government and should therefore be generally available.

5 Dave 05.16.11 at 7:32 pm

The Atlantic article is misleading; Disney did not trademark “Seal Team 6″, but only filed a trademark application. It’s a bit like a headline that says a court awarded plaintiff money when all that really happened was that a complaint was filed.

6 wfjag 05.17.11 at 8:03 am

“Anyone should be able to make a film about this unit, and to give it a title that identifies it as such, . .”
So, Bill, do you see this as a comeback opportunity for Sly Stallone and Chuck Norris?

7 Kurt 05.17.11 at 10:23 am

wfjag
Isn’t Arnold looking to make a comeback?

8 Squirrels 05.17.11 at 1:20 pm

I’m going to register the domain name “isealteam6.com’ and sell it for $6 million dollars.

9 D 05.18.11 at 8:12 pm

Dave, thanks for the clarification. The person (or office) that receives the application needs to grow a spine and stamp Declined.
I should probably encourage the Navy JAGs to submit an application for trademark. That could get interesting. My representative Norm Dicks (a heavy hand wrt the military) could probably rock the boat enough in the Navy’s favor. If nothing else, it could be entertaining.

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