Leroy N. Soetoro
2019-09-06 21:00:53 UTC
The U.S. Trademark Office did what few do the office told the Obamas
no. The former First Couple is now aggressively demanding that no be
turned into a yes.
You may remember the news not so long ago that the Obamas have now taken
over Netflix with a fabulous agreement that their new production company
will make movies and television series. Their production company is called
Higher Ground Productions. Back in April, the Obamas wanted to trademark
the name, and that is when the problems began for them. A woman named
Hanisya Massey has a business called Higher Ground Enterprises, which
helps authors publish e-books. Her trademark is in Class 41, which
includes entertainment services. Her attorney says Massey has been using
Higher Ground since 2008.
The Obamas original argument, provided in a letter from their attorney to
the Trademark Office, is that no one is going to confuse the two
businesses. The letter arrogantly implies its a distinction between a
big, important entertainment deal with the former First Couple and a small
business that promotes e-books.
[T]he consumers of media production services covered by the Application
are likely to be highly sophisticated, stated a letter on behalf of the
Obamas production company to the Trademark Office. Media production
services are generally offered not to individual consumers but to
commercial entities and professionals in their field. Indeed, Applicant
has entered a deal with Netflix in connection with its media production
services. Such customers, whether multi-billion-dollar media companies or
smaller commercial entities in need of media production services, will
exercise the height of care in selecting a media production company and
are highly unlikely to be confused by a photographer or e-book publisher
particularly when the other party uses a distinguishable mark.
Massey beat them to it by eleven years, it appears, and a trademark
examiner agreed at least for the moment. The denial of the Obamas
appeal reasoned that there can be buyer confusion on the part of
customers, and that the original owner of the name must prevail to protect
both from any negative impact by a newcomer. In this case, the newcomer is
Barack Obama and his wife.
Fast forward to August 20. The Obamas took the battle to the U.S. Patent &
Trademark Office and demanded that the trademark for Higher Grounds
Enterprises be canceled. The Obamas claim that Massey wasnt using the
trademarked name in 2016 when their production company was started. That
prompted an angry riposte from Masseys attorney, who calls the couples
request for cancellation of her trademark deplorable behavior.
The Obamas have known for almost a year that their Higher Ground
trademark application was rejected by the USPTO because it infringed my
clients rights, says Zerner. Instead, of simply picking another name,
the Obamas lawyers have now filed a meritless petition to cancel my
clients trademark so they can take it for themselves. This is really
deplorable behavior. I hope that the Obamas realize that these actions are
not consistent with the values they preach and that they instruct their
attorneys to immediately dismiss the petition.
So much for the expression made famous by Michelle Obama, When they go
low, we go high.
Higher Ground Productions has announced seven projects so far. Frankly,
this smacks of incompetence, certainly of the couples legal team as this
mega-deal with Netflix was put together. On something as basic as a
companys name, due diligence should have been done in the very beginning
of the venture by running a check on the name. How could they not know
that a very similar name was already trademarked? My guess is that a
lawyer did do the proper research, found a similar name, and the Obamas
simply thought they would get the trademark anyway. Because its the
Obamas. They didnt consider that a refusal would come their way.
Ms. Massey has a David and Goliath situation going on here. This isnt
Barack Obamas first trademark kerfuffle. Back in 2008, his presidential
campaign trademarked his logo the O with red and white striped
fields below a rising sun made of the open center space. A similar logo
was trademarked for the 2012 campaign. A website began selling merchandise
with the logo without permission from the campaign. A judge issued a
preliminary injunction at the request of the campaign. The reason given
was that supporters would be confused and think they were buying
merchandise from the campaign, not an independent vendor. A permanent
injunction was later issued and the vendor took the merchandise with the
logo off its website.
· Sep 3, 2019
You're not a real movie or television producer if you're not involved in
some intellectual property dispute. So welcome to entertainment,
Barack Obama's Production Company Runs Into a Trademark Problem
The U.S. Trademark Office rejects an application for "Higher Ground
Productions" so the former president and first lady get aggressive.
Obama seeks higher ground. Literally. Frankly, I think "Higher Goings
Productions" would be just as fine. It's free.
2:03 PM - Sep 3, 2019
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