By Scott Hervey
The holiday season means something different for each of us. For some it’s a time for eggnog, parties and mistletoe. For others, it’s a time for cease and desist letters, seizure actions and lawsuits. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause, and his lawyers stand ready to sue those who use his marks and other intellectual property without permission.
Competition is fierce during the holiday season, even for Kris Kringle; his North Pole toy shop has to compete with international toy manufacturing conglomerates. Also, it appears that in his earlier years Kris failed to take adequate steps to protect his moniker. The United States Patent and Trademark Office reports numerous registered trademarks that incorporate the brand most associated with that jolly old elf. This includes SANTA CLAUS for Trading Cards owned by The Topps Company, Inc.; SANTA CLAUS for an online retail store services featuring computer hardware and software, toys, games and apparel and a web site featuring the dissemination of advertising for others; HELLO SANTA for toy telephones designed to simulate calls to Santa Clause in the North pole; SANTA’S WORKSHOP for charitable fund raising consulting services; and SANTA CLAUSE IS COMIN’ TO TOWN for a variety of goods.
Kris could take a lesson from the Grinch – at least when it comes protecting intellectual property. The town of Louisville, Kentucky had planned a Christmas display based on the story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” complete with an area called "LouWhoVille," and costumed characters such as Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch. Apparently the city was unaware that the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who and rest of the fair citizens of Who-ville are protected intellectual property owned by Dr. Seuss Enterprises – that is, until the city received a cease desist letter from the Grinch’s counsel. Louisville’s Mayor, Jerry Abramson is quoted as saying "It appears these lawyers’ hearts are two sizes too small." We think otherwise. City counsel should have at least considered the possibility that Federal trademark and copyright laws might impose some restrictions on the city’s intended use. We don’t endorse the city’s proposed unauthorized uses of Dr. Seuss’ works and have three words for the Mayor – “stink, stank, stunk.” Besides, the Mayor should know that trademark and copyrights infringement usually lands one on Santa’s naughty list.