In the second of the classic Universal Studios monster movies, Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s monster turns from a the non-speaking horror to a gregarious fun-loving wine drinker and smoker….that is still chased by villagers with pitchforks and torches. Now, Universal has picked up some pitchforks of their own and has opposed a wine company’s attempt to register the FRANKENSTEIN trademark for wine claiming priority to the mark.
Recently, I sat down with a friend and we are making our way through all the classic Universal monster movies. She says Boris was a hack compared to Bela. I say Lon Chaney, Jr. doesn’t get enough praise as the Wolf Man but that’s a discussion for another day. Truly some of the most visually iconic movies ever made and they still hold up to this very day. (In case you are wondering, we are up to 1940’s, The Invisible Woman.) While these movies are mostly based off of characters that have been in the public domain for years, the trademarks are undying. A quick refresher: copyrights to underlying works expire and fall into the public domain, anyone can make a monster movie based off of Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. However, the trademarks associated with Frankenstein are still owned and used by the movie studio that made the story famous, Universal.
In May 2017, a very unusual trademark registration was filed for FRANKENSTEIN covering wine. The photo that was submitted in support of the registration can be seen to the right. So a couple of red flags go up here. First, the trademark was filed by something called Tikker Technologies LLC which doesn’t sound like much of a winery. Second, Tikker owns a plethora of trademarks covering the name of old books and characters for other products such as cosmetics, playing cards, and coffee to name a few. For example, Tikker claims ownership to trademarks for MOBY DICK, ROMEO AND JULIET, and even DRACULA. Bela just shuttered.
Universal has filed its opposition to the trademark application claiming priority use with its FRANKENSTEIN trademarks. Universal argues that when you see this bottle of wine, you are bound to confuse it with Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN trademark and will be tricked to think that the wine is affiliated with Universal when it is not. Tikker’s deadline to respond to the opposition has not yet come.
Universal uses the FRANKENSTEIN trademark and many people automatically associate the name with Universal and its monster. And that, in short, is Universal’s argument. Tikker is sure to argue that the mark is not just synonymous with Universal’s movies but Shelly’s book which is in the public domain. This dispute could take some time so in the meantime, I will get back to the movie marathon.