05 April, 2013

Grumpy Cat frowns at a possible trademark

Paris Fashion Week anyone?
As it has been said on this blog many times, the Internet has shaped the sphere where people can reproduce material easily as they see fit, regardless of its legality or not. There are websites dedicated to printing images onto t-shirts, coffee cups, plates and pretty much anything you can think of that just "needs" an image of something to make it worth your honest dollar. Merchandising often is a huge part of a brand's profits, after all, who doesn't find a Winnie the Pooh onesie an essential part of their wardrobe? Trademarks more often than not prevent people from profiting from the misuse of their trademarked image in the making and selling of products such as the above. But where does the line of what can be trademarked end?

Trademarks can be awarded to a potentially any image, and the latest and the greatest seeking one is the Internet's favorite upset kitty, Grumpy Cat. For the less informed, the cat oddly named Tardar Sauce, rose to fame over a year ago due to its constant look of disappointment at anything it might be in contact with. Its owners, rightfully so, launched a website dedicated to their aggravated feline companion, selling a number of items adorning its famous face. Without a trademark, others could potentially use the cat's image, create their own merchandise to sell, and thus benefit from the rise to fame that the cat has so thoroughly "enjoyed".

What the cat's owners are seeking is protection for both the name "Grumpy Cat" and its likeness for use in a very wide array of things, even kitchen utensils (why anyone would want to see the look of disappointment when eating their goulash, I don't know). The application is still pending, having been lodged in late January, we will have to wait and see whether the trademark is awarded. In this writer's opinion this will be an interesting result. Would the face of a cat be distinct enough for it to be trademarked? Surely cats' fur color and other details are fairly 'random', albeit controlled by genetics - however in this case the cat's facial features are incredibly uncommon (this writer has never seen a cat much like this one in his life), and might because of that be trademarkable. Come what may, Tardar Sauce will surely be unhappy with the outcome.

Grumpy Cat didn't approve of this blog post
The application in itself is not very important, but goes to show just how widely trademarks can be, and are, used in today's marketable world. Does it have worth in merchandising or otherwise? It might just be worth trademarking.

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