Motion picture and television titles by Paul D. Supnik

Caveat: The following is provided as a matter of general interest only. The evaluation of title clearance issues should be referred to experienced legal counsel.

1. Motion picture titles are not protectable by copyright law, at least in the United States.

2. Single book titles are not protectable by copyright law, at least in the United States.

3. A title of a single motion picture is generally not protectable initially.

4. Motion picture titles may be protectable through unfair competition if they have acquired a secondary meaning.

5. Titles of television series are protectable by traditional trademark law.

6. Titles of a series of books is protectable by traditional trademark law.

7. Motion picture titles are generally protected in a limited manner by registration with the MPAA Title Registration Bureau. This is a contractual arrangement among the studios, and among other producers who agree to be bound to not use conflicting titles.

8. Trademark registrations may be obtained for a series of titles.

9. A title of a motion picture can be protected once it acquires secondary meaning.

10. A title for a book can be protected once it acquires secondary meaning.

11. Secondary meaning means that a title has become sufficiently well known so as to identify that the motion picture originates from a unique source.

12. Sometimes, secondary meaning may be, but not necessarily is acquired when a book is on the best seller list.

13. A stage play may become sufficiently known to establish secondary meaning.

14. Trademark registration is sometimes obtained for titles of televisions series. Registration of motion picture titles are rarely made, except in connection with merchandising for the occasional motion picture, and in connection with the so-called franchise motion picture.

15. The Trademark Office generally has no problem with the registration of television series titles.

16. Clearance of titles generally involves a review of both common law uses and traditional trademark uses. A common law use generally means a use which is not registered. For example, the title of a best selling book may not have a trademark registration associated with it but can prevent the lawful use of the same title in connection with a motion picture.

17. A title may infringe rights of the owner of another title of a motion picture, play, television series or of a trademark for goods or services which is not even a title.


Motion Picture and Television Titles by Paul D. Supnik    Google


Paul D. Supnik
Attorney at Law
9401 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1100
Beverly Hills, California 90212
Tel.: 310 859-0100

Domestic and International Copyright and Trademark Law;
Motion Picture, Television, Publishing, Media and General Entertainment Law;
Multimedia and Internet Law; Licensing;
Related Litigation