A Trademark Christmas

Christmas and all of its “Christmas magic” is so ingrained in American culture, it can tempting to assume that the holiday is immune from IP considerations. For those who have been reading our blog for a while, you know that this is not the case (shameless plug for my post from last year on a similar topic). However, you might not be aware that there are many registered trademarks related to Christmas. Here are some you might recognize, all stemming from the successful commercialization of famous Christmas movies:

  1. The Grinch. In addition to the copyright of the Grinch story (starting with the 1957 book and continuing with subsequent film adaptations), a California limited partnership for Dr. Seuss’s IP holds 30 registered trademarks related to the same story and character.
  2. The Polar Express. The 2004 Warner Brothers film based on a 1985 children’s book has resulted in 14 registered trademarks for Warner Brothers.
  3. Home Alone. Twentieth Century Fox holds 2 trademarks based on its famous 1990 film of the same name.

Based on these Christmas-themed trademarks, I think there are a few takeaways:

  1. Just because Christmas is a special season does not mean that there are special rules for Christmas-themed IP. For example, if you are thinking about launching a special promotion for your products or services inspired by holiday-themed IP, it can still result in a cease-and-desist (or worse).
  2. Check on the status of any IP of others you plan on using during the holiday season and seek permission first. As this exercise reveals, more things are subject to IP protection than you might realize.
  3. Consider coming up with your own twist on holiday promotion rather than relying on existing material. Even though there are plenty of copyrighted works and trademarks related to the holidays, there are still opportunities to develop your own thing and build the brand recognition alongside it.

Thanks for reading!