October 26, 2012 8:16pm PT by Jonathan Handel
Hollywood Sign Owner Cries Foul Over Ad Agency 'Infringement'
Visit the website for The Brooklyn Brothers, a New York ad agency, and you’ll find a splash page announcing their new Hollywood venture, called BB Hollywood. It’s a snazzy looking page – a photo of the Hollywood sign with “BB” photoshopped in, to form “BBHOLLYWOOD” in the iconic white staggered, blocky typeface.
But it turns out the splash page has already made more of a splash in Hollywood than the agency intended. When it showed up in a New York Times story identified as the new venture’s logo, at least one person in LA took notice.
“I’ve already sent it over to our attorney for a cease and desist (letter),” Jeff Lotman told The Hollywood Reporter. Lotman is the CEO of Global Icons, a licensing agency that represents the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The non-profit Chamber, as much of Hollywood knows, owns a trademark in the Hollywood sign – and they police it vigilantly.
“It’s an infringement of our trademark,” said Chamber president and CEO Leron Gubler, when asked about the BB Hollywood image. “This is not an isolated occurrence.”
Gubler could just as well have used the plural – i.e., “trademarks” – because the Chamber actually owns about a half-dozen related trademarks, not in the image of the sign itself, but in the word “HOLLYWOOD” when depicted in the aforementioned staggered, blocky typeface.
In addition, the Chamber’s lawyers use a form of quasi trademark called “trade dress” to extend its rights to cover other words when set in a similar typeface against a Hollywood Hills type backdrop. The sponsors of the X Games, for instance, paid a licensing fee in order to use an image of “X GAMES X” set up to look like the Hollywood sign.
This might all sound ominous for The Brooklyn Brothers, whose three partners are neither brothers nor from Brooklyn. A chat with agency head Guy Barnett made clear from his accent that he hails from England, in fact.
But about that logo. “It’s not a logo,” said Barnett. “It’s just a way to launch the company, a fun visual.”
“We won’t be so pleased if we get sued,” he added a bit nervously.
Actually, that seems unlikely. Lotman told THR that he was open to a deal and that the fee – even if it were for a logo – “is not going to be much.”
That sounded more comforting to Barnett, whose agency has offices in Manhattan, London and, somewhat improbably, Brazil. (“That’s where our digital wizards live,” Barnett offered.)
No doubt a quick settlement will allow the agency to focus on the new enterprise, which aims to create branded entertainment. It’s actually a joint venture between The Brooklyn Brothers and eight writers and producers: Ned Rice (“The Tonight Show,” “Politically Incorrect”), Mark Goffman (“White Collar,” “The West Wing”), Lester Lewis (“Madison High,” “The Office”), Rob Long (“Cheers”), Adam Kulakow (Les Miserables, Race to Witch Mountain), Danielle Uhlarik (“The Family Tools”), Paul Ruehl (“Hard Times of RJ Berger”) and producer Laylee Olfat (casting director and producer on Roger Dodger and Secret Lives of Dentists).
With nary a connection to New York’s outer boroughs, why call the agency The Brooklyn Brothers? Said Barnett, “I liked the way it made us sound like a circus.”
Indeed. While some people analogize moving to LA as running away and joining the circus, this might be one of the few times the circus ran away and joined Hollywood. Splash page kerfuffle aside, they should fit right in.
Email: jhandel99 at gmail dot com