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The company that owns the rights to the Power Rangers television series, brand, and related products is becoming legally adventurous. A few months ago, on the eve of Halloween, SCG Power Rangers LLC targeted the makers of lookalike costumes for infringing its copyright and trademarks. The lawsuit was settled before a judge got a chance to rule whether the “artwork and design” of the Power Rangers uniforms were conceptually separable from the utilitarian aspects of the clothing, and thus copyrightable.
Now comes a new lawsuit that raises the stakes. In SCG’s latest case, the company isn’t going after costumes per se, but rather hooded sweatshirts that appear to have some geometric design symmetry to its claimed intellectual property.
The defendant in the lawsuit is Michael Alen, who the plaintiffs believe resides in Los Angeles and does business marketing “Power Hoodiez.”
The allegedly infringing merchandise in question has been written up glowingly on several websites including io9, which lusted over the $85 sweatshirts by noting that it can be custom made in different colors. “Looking for gold lining? An all-metallic jacket? Your hoodie can be as flashy or as (relatively) sedate as you’d like,” the website wrote.
But the “Hoodiez’ are too similar for SCG’s taste. The company posts a side-by-side comparison in their complaint filed in California federal court:
SCG says that the defendant (who couldn’t be reached for comment) never got permission to use Power Rangers IP in connection with sweatshirts, that the merchandise has created confusion in the marketplace as to its source, and wants to punish the defendant for willful violations of copyright and trademark law.
Copyright law doesn’t permit “useful articles” like clothing to enjoy protection, but it does allow the protection of “any pictorial, graphic, or sculptural authorship that can be identified separately from the utilitarian aspects of an object.”
SCG is represented in this matter by Aaron Moss and Rachel Valadez at Greenberg Glusker.
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