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The U.S. Trademark Office can sometimes resemble a funhouse maze. Six months ago, we broke news that Disney was investigating a trademark registration filed by the company owned by EDM star Joel Zimmerman, better known as Deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”). Providing notice of a potential challenge isn’t unusual at the Trademark & Trial Board. Now, though, Disney has filed formal papers opposing the attempted registration of a mark consisting of a caricature of a mouse head with black ears, black face, white eyes and white mouth.
According to Disney, “Applicant’s Mouse Ears Mark is nearly identical in appearance, connotation, and overall commercial impression to Disney’s Mouse Ears Marks. … Accordingly, Applicant’s Mouse Ears Mark so resembles Disney’s prior used and registered Disney’s Mouse Ears Marks as to be likely, when used in connection with Applicant’s Products and Services, to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive under Section 2(d) of the Lanham Act.”
Here’s what the Deadmau5 registration looks like:
Surely, there’s some resemblance to Mickey Mouse. But that doesn’t settle the issue, as Deadmau5 will point out:
Disney thinks you might confuse an established electronic musician / performer with a cartoon mouse. That’s how stupid they think you are.
— deadmau5 (@deadmau5) September 3, 2014
We find this tweet to be slightly off-beat.
Pointing out a lack of consumer confusion is one thing. But what then is Deadmau5’s intent on gaining trademark registration in the first place?
The advantage of trademark registration is protection. The trademark would presumably serve Deadmau5’s purpose by dissuading others from using it. And if Deadmau5 is successful in registration — indeed, his attorney says the musician has trademarks in 30 countries — he’ll have the automatic right to sue others in federal court. Sue whom? Those confusing the source of goods from the use of this mark.
And so, we must ask: Is it really wise to raise the issue of stupidity when the preemptive legal step he is making (trademark registration) is grounded upon the presumptive gullibility of consumers?
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