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Is it possible to trademark the title of a movie?

Los Angeles, CA |

I want to trademark the title of my movie.

Attorney Answers 6


  1. As a general matter, I was taught that titles of movies can neither be copyrighted or trademarked. I have trouble seeing how a movie title can be registered as a trademark, because it is not in connection with a good or service.However, a lawyer in Los Angeles thinks he can get it registered, according to an article he did a few years ago. You can read his article here: http://troygould.com/layouts/50/graphics/handel_la_lawyer.pdf . You might want to contact him.

    www.bayoaklaw.com. 510-208-5500. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is not legal advice, because it is only of a general nature. Please contact a lawyer qualified in your jurisdiction to discuss your situation in confidence, using your factual details. Avvo answers are only general legal responses. Item 9 of Avvo.com's Terms and Conditions are incorporated in this disclaimer as though it were printed here.


  2. The article cited and linked by Mr. Jacobson is a fantasitic analysis, although some lawyers may have different opinions. I note that if the title to your movie is applied to different goods aside from the movie, something like Jaws soap, registration would not be barred.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


  3. Titles cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. I suggest you speak to an IP lawyer in your area as there are many issues involved in releasing a movie and if you have this question you likely need legal advice for others.

    The answers given are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. Please feel free to contact me if you want to obtain legal advice from me.


  4. What a great question. A lot of general practitioners who don't specialize in trademark law are not aware of the nuances in this area.

    Titles of a single work are consider not to be "inherently distinctive" and therefore not entitled to trademark registration. That means that they do not inherently identify the owner as the single source of the work and need to "acquire distinctiveness". Generally there are two ways titles acquire "secondary meaning" or acquired distinctiveness. The first is that a second movie under the same title is made, i.e., a series of movies. The title of a series of movies is considered inherently distinctive and entitled to trademark registration. The other is that the movie/title acquires substantial consumer recognition through extensive distribution and advertising. The applicant can submit a variety of different evidence of consumer recognition, including advertising expenditures and unsolicited press coverage to support this claim.

    There are ways to register titles with the Copyright Office as well.

    I hope this helps further your understanding.

    Comments provided on this website are not intended as legal advise and do not create and attorney client relationship.


  5. yes, but only after the second movie (at that time it becomes a series)


  6. Of course you can. It is done on almost every major movie. You do it through merchandizing and registering the trademark for the merchandized goods. Lucasfilm, Ltd. has over $20 billion in licensed consumer products. See http://www.lucasfilm.com/divisions/licensing/

    Can't do it for a single movie? BS. See the following:
    1 85612465 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    2 85612440 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    3 85612408 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    4 85612381 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    5 85612339 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    6 85612292 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    7 85612240 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    8 85612206 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR
    9 85612152 JAMES CAMERON'S AVATAR

    or last years's Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
    http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77675935

    Indeed, if you don't do that you can lose the name for merchandizing, to wit, a prior year's Best Picture, Hurt Locker
    http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77756452 or
    http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77517894
    and then you might have to resort to hiring copyright trolls to secure your revenue stream:
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120424/01184018623/hurt-locker-producers-now-understand-copyright-troll-shakedown-better-sue-2514-more-defendants.shtml
    which rightful or not you see can give you a black-eye.

    You need a trademark lawyer, and should make it one that understands how this is done.

    So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.