What exactly does it mean that... two companies own the term "super hero," which is part of our common language and is actually a genre unto itself? It means that you can't market materials using the term "super hero."
from "Six Strange Cases of Science Fiction Trademarks," by Lauren Davis via io9.com
One of my finest moments in erotic editing was when I published "Je T'Aime, Batman, Je T'adore" -- a homoerotic love story between Robin and You-Know-Who. It was a tour de force written by Kelly McQuain for Best American Erotica 1999.
DC Comix, who owns the "Batman" name, came down like a hammer on myself and S&S Publishers. They threatened all sorts of dire consequences for infringing on their copyright.
I was shocked, because I thought "Batman" has been genericized thoroughly over the years, homosexually and otherwise. Many great writers, like Donald Bartholomew, had seemed to get away with it!
But S&S didn't want to fight it, and pulled the entire first printing. They republished BAE 1999, with the story missing. You're lucky if you have one of the first unexpurgated copies!
Meanwhile, yes, I have been on the other side of the table with copyright protection. My own good name was abused, yes ABUSED, just like poor Boy Robin! Am I being a hypocrite? You judge:
An author (whose name I'll refrain from publicizing) wrote a series fake blurbs attributed to my name for the back cover of her novel.
Her blurbs read, more or less, "This is book and author are amazing!- Susie Bright."
I didn't know her work, nor did I voice that opinion.
The defiant author claimed that there was ANOTHER Susie Bright who liked her work. Right!
I got so mad that I trademarked my name.
Years went by. I never enforced my trademark, never had another occasion. Seemed like a waste of time and money.
One day, in the odyssey of Facebook Follies, I was struck by a social media problem. I wanted to claim the URL, "facebook.com/susiebright," which is a bit of vanity-plating FB encouraged their users to do. (It helps people find your "Fan Page.")
However, a woman named Susie who had recently married a man named "Bright"- had already beaten me to the punch.
I wrote to "Susie 2" to ask if we could switch... she didn't seem like the type who'd want to be mistaken for an erotic writer. She said no, she was keeping it. Why? I sure wouldn't want my facebook name to be "facebook.com/britneyspears."
I wrote to FB and appealed their grant of the Page-name, citing and submitting my trademark grant from the US Patent office.
They ignored me. I wrote twice more. Then they denied me, without explanation.
This made me realize, like so many other situations, that unless you have your own Large Samoan Attorney (love ya, Hunter!) to enforce your legal issues, it doesn't matter a whit WHAT you trademark.
I must say, though, I would love to be expertly satirized, like Batman. —To have one's name become part of common mythology and vocabulary, like "Barbie" or "Godzilla," is the vernacular compliment that goes down in history!
Read the rest of Lauren Davis's excellent story on bizarre S/F trademark legacies, here at io9.com