Warner Bros. Trying to Trademark Everything About The Wizard of Oz — But the Original Work Is Public Domain
May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor
So, back in 1939, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made a little movie called The Wizard of Oz, based on an 1899 novel by L. Frank Baum called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Fast forward to 2012, when the story has been retold and adapted in a variety of ways, usually referring back to the novel. Why? Because it’s in the public domain, meaning, there is no issue of copyright or trademark. However, now that Disney has filed to trademark Oz, the Great and Powerful ahead of the 2013 release of its movie of the same name, Warner Bros. is clearing its throat, trying to remind everyone (as if we’d forget) that it owns the rights to The Wizard of Oz, and it filed for its own trademark of “The Great and Powerful Oz.” And now, they’re going after everything Oz-related, claiming that no one could have gotten their Oz-related ideas from anything but the movie — not even the novel that Warner Bros. based its own movie on.
The double trademark filing occurred in October, with WB filing just about a week after Disney did. But last week, an examiner from the United States Trademark Office turned down WB’s request, saying that Disney had already filed one. Then, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that WB could have “character protection,” referring to the specific likenesses of Judy Garland et al. The actual character of Dorothy Gale was originated by Baum and appeared in the novel, and is not subject to the same protection. The case had concerned the selling of nostalgia pieces with images directly coming from or inspired by the movie.
But now, WB is assuming that all Oz-inspired merchandise must have referred to their movie, even while the illustrations in Baum’s novel provide similar interpretations of the characters in the text. WB believes they are similar enough! Because no one reads books! Even the phrase “Flying Monkeys,” a pair of words that are not even uttered in the movie in reference to the Wicked Witch’s henchy creatures, have been deemed by WB to fall under their protection. There were pictures of them, though — in the novel. It doesn’t stop there — WB has gotten downright trademark-insane:
In the past year, Warners has been one of the most aggressive filers of oppositions at the USPTO’s Trademark Trial & Appeal Board. Especially over The Wizard of Oz.
For instance, the company has gone after potential merchandise associated with Dorothy of Oz, a $60 million-budgeted animation film scheduled to be released later this year by Summertime Entertainment.
Warners also has attacked registrations on a series of neuroscience books entitled “If I Only Had A Brain,” a restaurant called “Wicked ‘Wiches Wickedly Delicious Sandwiches,” a clothing line known as “Wizard of Azz,” Halloween costumes under the brand name “Wicked of Oz,” and dozens of other Oz-related marks.
One pending case at the TTAB is especially enlightening.
It concerns wines being marketed in the state of Kansas. Among them are “Dorothy of Kansas and Toto Wine,” “Ruby Slippers Wine,” “Broomstick Wine,” “The Lion’s Courage,” and “Flying Monkey Wine.”
Warners is objecting, of course.
WB’s lawyer had mentioned that no one would think to just use direct references to Harry Potter in something without expecting a trademark battle, clearly not realizing that Harry Potter is not exactly public domain.
Warner Bros. claims that it is not trying to derail any upcoming adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They just want to protect their movie, The Wizard of Oz. In the most ironic ways possible — by claiming that all these things borrowing from public domain material are ripping off their movie. Their movie that borrowed from public domain material.
(via The Hollywood Reporter)