A trademark owner of a cartoon character’s image was recently prevented from enforcing its trademark where the use of the image on a product was found to be functional and aesthetic in being the reason consumers buy the product. The trademark owner was also prevented from precluding use of the image based on copyright law because a prior owner of the copyright to the cartoon character was found to retain ownership to the character. The court’s decision emphasizes the importance of establishing a connection between a trademark and the trademark owner when enforcing trademark rights and the importance of carefully reviewing the chain of title to a copyright, before purchasing the copyright, to ensure that a component of the copyright was not retained by a previous copyright owner.
June 21, 2011
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