Seizing on the popularity of the Disney Movie Frozen, Phase 4 Films renamed its movie, The Legend of Sarila to be Frozen Land. Disney Enterprises (which owns Walt Disney’s intellectual property) promptly sued Phase 4 Films for violating its trademark in the Frozen logo.
When I heard about the lawsuit, I wondered whether Disney had a legal basis for filing it. There is no copyright protection in a movie title and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) refuses to register a trademark for a single title of any creative work saying that the “title, or a portion of a title, of a single creative work must be refused registration” under the Trademark Act. (The PTO will, however, permit registration if the “title has been used on a series of creative works.”)
Not surprisingly, Disney filed the lawsuit for a pretty solid reason. Phase 4 Films didn’t just appropriate the movie title. It’s appropriation of Disney’s Frozen logo was downright obvious. Here is one of Disney’s trademarked logos that it used to promote the movie (the logo graphic was included in the court’s judgment).
Phase 4 Films essentially incorporated Disney’s logo wholesale into its newly renamed movie (again, this is the logo graphic included in the court’s judgment).
Yesterday, January 17, 2014, the parties reached a settlement which has been set forth in a federal court judgment. The judgment/settlement requires Phase 4 Films to
immediately cease marketing and distribution of The Legend of Sarila as FROZEN LAND. Any further distribution, marketing, and/or promotion of The Legend of Sarila or related products, irrespective of format, shall be under the name The Legend of Sarila or another name not confusingly similar to or intended to create any association with FROZEN or any other motion picture marketed, promoted, or released by [Disney Enterprises] or its affiliated companies, including Walt Disney Pictures.
Phase 4 Films cannot use the “Frozen Land” logo in marketing its movie and must take “all practicable efforts” to immediately remove all copies (including DVD covers, DVDs and other media) of “Frozen Land” from stores and distribution centers. Phase 4 Films must then certify to the court that it has destroyed all copies of the infringing logo no later than March 3, 2014. The Judgment also requires Phase 4 Films to pay Disney Enterprises $100,000 no later than January 27, 2014.
Disney’s prompt filing of the trademark lawsuit and the parties’ even more prompt resolution to of it demonstrates that Disney is not going to tolerate infringement of its trademarks. To be honest, at $100,000, Phase 4 Films probably got off cheaply, given how brazenly it copied Disney’s Frozen logo.