Meeting of the Minds

This Title Cannot Be Registered: The Lack of Title Trademark Protection for Single Creative Works and Some Available Alternatives

Shahrokh Sheik and Ryan C. Shanley

©2014. Published in Landslide, Vol. 6, No. 5, May/June 2014, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

While trademark law protects a wide range of marks used in commerce to designate their source of origin—service marks, word marks, design marks, sound marks, scent marks, and color marks—it does not generally protect titles of single creative works such as movie, television show, book, and song titles.1 Trademark protection for titles of works can provide significant value to the author. In addition to deterring third parties from distributing works with similar names that could dilute the brand or pass off on the accumulated commercial goodwill, trademark protection can facilitate opportunities for additional revenue streams such as licensing merchandise and other cross commercial brand partnership arrangements with related goods and services. Of course, the need for such protection is more relevant for titles with potential for ancillary products and merchandising opportunities.

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