Iconic entertainment behemoth Warner Bros Entertainment (Warner Bros.) has been denied a trade mark for one of the most famous phrases used in the mighty Harry Potter franchise.
Originally uncovered by The Blast, documents emerged showing the USPTO refusing multiple trade marks by Warner Bros. for the phrase: “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good.”
Failed trade mark application for major entertainment company
For those not familiar with the franchise, the phrase was first used in the third book of the phenomenally successful series, The Prisoner of Azkaban. In the book, JK Rowling’s protagonist Harry Potter is given the Marauder’s Map, which is a key part of the plot. When the phrase is spoken, the map reveals where every student in Hogwarts can be found.
Warner Bros. produced the film franchise based on the books, which has grossed roughly $20 billion so far. As part of the endless marketing for the franchise, the company wanted to gain ownership of the phrase to use on merchandise ranging from clothes to bedding, bath mats and much more.
While they already sell many products using the phrase, the trade mark applications show they wanted to stop anyone else from using it. If they were able to secure trade marks, they would be able to sue any other company using the phrase to produce merchandise without their express permission.
Reasons for refusal of trade marks
It may have seemed a no-brainer to Warner Bros, but the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says otherwise. One of the main reasons they refused the multiple trade mark applications for the phrase is because customers would automatically link it with JK Rowling herself. As she has nothing to do with Warner Bros.’ plans for the phrase, this is ruled as a “false association”.
Officials from the USPTO point out that the phrase is “widely used” throughout the third novel in the series. Furthermore, they rule it has “prominence” throughout the whole series of books. Examining attorneys from the USPTO say that the phrase: “has been recognised as one of the most famous quotes to come out of the Harry Potter universe”.
As well as ruling that the trade mark would “falsely suggest a connection” between Warner Bros. merchandise and the author, the USPTO made further rulings.
They say that the phrase is simple an “informational slogan”. This means that trade mark protection isn’t an option, as it’s a common phrase that could be used by anyone. The decision from the USPTO says that the phrase “is a commonplace term, message or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys and ordinary, familiar, well-recognised concept or sentiment.”
As people are used to seeing this phrase used by lots of different sources in every day speech, it could not feasibly identify Warner Bros. specifically as the producer of the products associated with it.
The entertainment juggernaut was denied this marketing trade mark attempt as the franchise rumbles on.
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