No Animals Were Harmed . . . (only Trademarks)

Posted by | February 07, 2011 | General | No Comments

The Kings Speech is a 2010 film about the story of King George VI of Britain that was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and 7 Golden Globes.  Despite all the hoopla and critical acclaim bestowed upon the film, it appears that the producers overlooked something . . . a trademark license from the American Humane Association (AHA, indeed!  Though I must admit, the official abbreviation of the organization is American Humane).

As THR, Esq. reported today, The Kings Speech starred several “animal actors,” — (small dogs called corgis) — which led the film’s producers to include a statement in the credits at the end of the film that “No Animals Were Harmed” [in making the film].  While sparing animals from harm sure seems like a good thing, the thing the producers at (SEE SAW Films) overlooked is that NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED is a federally registered certification mark belonging to the American Humane Association.

Certification marks (affectionately known as “cert marks” in some trademark circles) are a type of trademark.  Generally speaking, cert marks indicate that the trademark owner certifies the quality or origin of another party’s product or services.

American Humane’s NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED mark certifies the quality of:[framed_box]motion picture film production, documentary film production, television show production, television advertisement production and live action show production,[/framed_box]

presumably based on the humane treatment of animals therein.

American Humane strives to: Protect animals on the sets of film productions and to ensure that they are treated humanely, with the respect and compassion they deserve.  To accomplish this, American Humane issues Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media for film and television producers.  It also offers NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED® Certified Animal Safety Representative Training for those seeking employment by American Humane as Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ (who wouldn’t want this job?).

NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED has been used as a trademark since at least as early as December 31, 1989, and federally registered since December 07, 2004.  Impressively, American Humane’s animal protection policies have been part of the Producers-Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Agreement since 1980 and the organization has been protecting animal welfare in general since 1940.  American Humane licenses its NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED® “end-credit disclaimer” (that’s their way of saying trademark) to productions with which it works on animal issues.  Luckily for American producers, these services are free for domestic SAG productions (those made by Americans in America).

Unfortunately for the producers of The Kings Speech, they’re not American, so they did not know about American Humane’s NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED U.S. trademark rights.  According to THR, Esq., a SEE SAW Films representative told The Hollywood Reporter that his production company did not mean to imply an association with American Humane, representatives from the companies have spoken and the issue has been resolved.

Before using a “catch phrase,” it is prudent to first ensure that such phrase is not a trademark that belongs to someone else.  If the phrase you want to use turns out to be a third party’s trademark, consult with trademark counsel to determine whether to seek a license, switch terms, or something else.

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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