Hollywood Docket: Drumpf Trademark Hits Roadblock

Plus, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump settles a lawsuit over use of a bald eagle image.
Courtesy of HBO
'Last Week Tonight' host John Oliver and the "Make Donald Drumpf Again" hat

HBO's John Oliver inadvertently created a satirical sensation in telling his viewers that Donald Trump should go back to his ancestral roots and reclaim the name Drumpf — but, while his joke has been successful, the comedian's attempt to register a corresponding trademark is failing.

A company called Drumpf Industries, which Bloomberg claims is Oliver's doing, is attempting to register "Drumpf" — but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office thinks the similarity to Trump's moniker might confuse consumers.

"Registration is refused because the applied-for mark consists of or comprises a name, portrait or signature identifying a particular living individual whose written consent to register the mark is not of record," states the application file.

The joke started earlier this year when the Last Week Tonight host ribbed the mogul about his ancestors' last name and encouraged America to "make Donald Drumpf again" — complete with red hats mimicking those from Trump's campaign. 

The segment and the hats were a huge hit, selling out multiple times and even catching the eye of Jay-Z, who reportedly called HBO asking for one. Oliver quipped to Stephen Colbert on the Late Show in March that he warned the network to be careful. “If [Jay-Z] puts that on his head in public, you’re going to need more hats," he said. "And if his wife puts it on in public, we are no longer a TV show, we are a hat manufacturing company.”

To clear this regulatory hurdle, Oliver will need permission from Trump himself.

"To overcome this particular refusal, the applicant must submit written consent from both parties," states a trademark examiner. "This written consent must include a statement of Mr. Trump’s consent to applicant’s registration of the identifying matter as a trademark, and not just the party’s consent to permit applicant to use the mark."

In other entertainment legal news:

— Trump has reached a settlement with two photographers who sued him for using their bald eagle photo as part of his campaign. Wendy Shattil and Robert Rozinski sued the Republican presidential candidate for copyright infringement in March. The nature photographers claimed his campaign used without licensing their 1980 "Bald Eagle Portrait" — a close-up of the national icon against a bright blue sky — both online and in print form to promote the candidate. They had been seeking statutory damages and attorneys fees, and the terms of the settlement are confidential.

— The songwriter behind Paul Anka's "Times of Your Life" is looking to move forward on his lawsuit against a conservative Super PAC for using his music without permission. Roger Nichols sued Club for Growth Action in November, claiming the PAC infringed his copyright in the work when it used the song in a television commercial and falsely implied he endorses the candidate the ad was promoting. "Such misconduct cannot be allowed to go forth with impunity, otherwise advocacy groups will free ride off of the creativity and good will of artists and copyright holders to promote their message," states Nichols' opposition to a motion to dismiss. Club for Growth is arguing the commercial was a fair use of the work.

— The producer behind three classic films can pursue misallocation claims in its lawsuit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after a federal judge denied MGM's motion to preclude the claim. P.E.A. Films sued in 2014 to terminate MGM's contracts pertaining to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More and Last Tango in Paris, questioning MGM's accounting practices. In January, at a deposition, attorneys for P.E.A. noted misallocation claims to the mix, alleging MGM misclassified 20th Century Fox as a home video servicing company which would alter the distribution fees MGM collects and the amount owed to PEA. MGM had argued P.E.A. wove the new claim out of whole cloth as "a last-ditch attempt to squeeze lemonade out of a lemon." The judge's decision wasn't a total loss for MGM. She is modifying her scheduling order, which gives the studio time to file a summary judgment motion that could knock out the misallocation claims. A trial is now scheduled for Oct. 4.

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