Fictional products don't violate trademark laws

The makers of Clean Slate, a drive-wiping program, sued Warner over a fictional product with the same name in The Dark Knight Rises; the judge quite sensibly told them that trademark protects you from unfair competition — it doesn't let you own words.

Many media companies and creators are needlessly squeamish about this stuff. I use trademarks in colloquial, imaginary or fictional ways in my books and stories all the time, and I've had lots of colleagues ask me "how do you get away with it?" I "get away with it" because it's totally, unequivocally legal.

"The problem here is that Fortres Grand wants to allege confusion regarding the source of a utilitarian desktop management software based solely on the use of a mark in a movie and two advertising websites," writes the appellate judge. Warner Bros. "does not sell any movie merchandise similar to Fortres Grand's software which also bears the allegedly infringing mark. Fortres Grand mentions that Warner Bros. sells video games. Desktop management software and video game software may be similar enough to make confusion plausible, but Fortres Grand does not allege that the video games bear the "clean slate" mark. Nor does Fortres Grand allege that desktop management software is a commonly merchandised movie tie-in (as a video game might be)."

That's a nice way of essentially saying: "Why are you crazy people wasting everyone's time with this?" Just to be clear, Fortres Grand filed a lawsuit to combat a piece of entirely fictional software. Fictional. It doesn't exist. Like…at all. But Fortres Grand went to court against it. Bang up job guys.

Software Company Loses Trademark Case Against Batman Over Fictional Software [Timothy Geigner/Techdirt]