In today’s marketplace, establishing and maintaining a brand is almost as important as the product or service itself. Consumers know that BMW is the ultimate driving machine for a reason. Same thing with the familiar jingles that identify and distinguish Farmers Insurance from State Farm Insurance.
Given that Oscars weekend just passed, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences wants to protect its brand as well. No, the Academy does not need to protect the authenticity of its iconic statuettes that are given to various winners, nor will the public mistake its name. However, it appears that it needs to protect its brand from the IRS.
The Academy stopped giving out gift bags to its nominees (also known as “swag” bags) for tax reasons 10 years ago. But now, the company that gives out the bags, Distinctive Assets, is now under fire for claiming that the bags are “official” Oscars swag.
Because of this, the Academy has filed suit in federal court, claiming that Distinctive Assets uses the Academy’s trademarks to promote its own products without the Academy’s permission and that Distinctive’s promotions create the false impression that the Academy endorses the gift bags, or that there is an affiliation, connection or partnership that would suggest that the Academy is responsible for doling out the swag.
Perhaps the Academy does not want to be roped into a dispute surrounding the distribution of 1099’s or it does not want to violate a possible consent decree with the IRS. Regardless, it is an example of how experienced legal counsel is needed to defend infringements of a company’s brand and trademarks.