A trademark is "a word, name, symbol, device, or combination of them that indicates the source of goods or services." Consequently, a trademark distinguishes specific products or services of one business to the others within the same field. Movies always involve trademark use, from the movie studioâs logos to the props bearing signage of commercial brands.
Movie Genre Trademarks
The audience readily sees trademarks through names, logos and graphics of the movie studios as shown in the opening credits.
Movie studios may produce an expansive list of films ranging from animation to drama. However, the need for better identification results from the specific genres released by the studio or by itâs sister companies within the same mother studio. For instance, Fox Searchlight, unlike its mother company 20th Century Fox, releases movies from independent producers.
Filmmaking requires using technical equipment like camera, lighting, editing, sound and special effects equipment. So, it is very common to see logos of technical products and resources during the movie's closing credits. For example, the ending part of the scrolling credits typically show: Panavision or Arri (cameras used); Digital Theater Systems (DTS) or Dolby Digital (sound mixes used); and Kodak or Fuji (films used). In the same way, as stated in the DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation website, producers are only licensed to use the DVD logo in a movie release if they meet specific requirements.
A movie script may require the use of specific trademarks, logos and symbols. A story about a techie man may require brands like Apple computer, the latest smartphone or any other high tech gadgets in the movie. Some instances may also require Coke cans, FedEx envelope, McDonalds burger or Nike shoes for props and locations.
Generally, producers can include a trademark in a movie or TV production as long as it does not result in particular changes in the trademark or the product bearing the trademark is outside the trademark holder's intention. Disputes may arise if the two parties don't agree on how the trademark should be used. Discussions may result in compromises. For instance, according to the article "Trademarks, Movies, and the Clearance Culture" at the Harvard Law Education Blog, a production using New York University (NYU) as the setting, becomes an issue to the actual university. The trademark owner feels that the portrayal of students in the story can seriously affect the image of NYU.
Advertisements and Sponsorships
Using trademarks for movies is one way of getting advertising or sponsorship money from the trademark owner. In such cases, if producers and trademark owners agree that such uses are highly beneficial to both parties, the airtime provided by the producers for the trademark owners' products or services results in advertising or sponsorship money from the trademark owner to the producers.
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