In the pantheon of dumb trademark disputes, you would probably expect there to be some correlation between the volume or level of dumb of a dispute and the involvement of a member of the entertainment industry. Without having any hard data in front of me, I still feel quite comfortable stating that this expectation is almost certainly correct. The entertainment industries are notoriously protective of all things intellectual property, after all. Still, sometimes you run across a dispute that is so silly it takes your breath away.
Meet Kevin Rizer. Kevin owns a pet products company in Texas. When he named his company, he drew inspiration from his own furry, four-legged friend, his cancer-surviving dog, whose name is Emmy. Thus, Emmy’s Best was created to make pet products, and, damn it, you already know where this is going, don’t you?
Last February, Rizer filed for a trademark for Emmy’s Best. That’s when he said the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences pushed back. NATAS, the organization behind the Emmy Awards, claimed the trademark would confuse consumers, according to Rizer.
“They don’t think people can tell the difference between a pet products company…. and what they do… which is give out awards,” Rizer said.
It should go without saying that this trademark opposition from NATAS is ridiculous. The two companies aren’t remotely in the same marketplace, never mind competing with one another. On that same level, it’s a stretch to suggest that any member of the public is going to go shopping for their beloved pets and suddenly find themselves confused into thinking that the Emmy awards are somehow involved. Despite this, Rizer tried to reason with NATAS, going so far as to offer to drop the trademark application entirely. NATAS, however, says this isn’t enough and is demanding that Rizer’s business name be changed entirely.
Its reasoning? Well, Emmy the dog was given that name because Rizer at one point wanted to win an Emmy. Seriously, NATAS, highlights this “About Us” page on Emmy’s Best’s website as evidence.
I had always wanted an Emmy, but not this one. You see, I was a struggling television director/producer when this white bundle of a fur ball came into my life. Having always wanted to win an Emmy award, a friend recommended that I name my new puppy Emmy. Eight years later, there is still only one Emmy in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This white labrador retriever-human mix has brought more joy, satisfaction and companionship into my life than any shiny statue ever could. It is with great pride that Emmy’s Best Premium Pet Products was born, and bears my Emmy’s name.
With that ammunition, NATAS claims the name must be changed.
“Emmy has been the premier mark of excellence in television for seven decades,” wrote Paul Pillitteri, the senior vice president of communications for NATAS. “Emmy’s Best cites this legacy as its inspiration for copying the famous Emmy trademark.”
“EMMY® has been the premier mark of excellence in television for seven decades. Emmy’s Best cites this legacy as its inspiration for copying the famous EMMY trademark. We are actively and generously seeking an agreement that allows the company to continue to grow without infringing this iconic trademark.”
It’s hard to imagine a better example of big versus small trademark bullying at work, particularly as Emmy is now waging a third battle with cancer and may not live through the rest of the year. Emmy’s owners, meanwhile, are locked into a stupid trademark battle just because NATAS wants to play the unreasonable bully.
Real good look for the entertainment industry, guys.