from the more-like-mid-evil,-amirite? dept
Trademark bullying usually takes a pretty typical form. Someone with a trademark decides to interpret the need to enforce their mark in an extreme way and goes off threatening and/or suing everyone that even comes mildly close to using the registered trademark. It’s annoying, although perhaps mildly understandable if you squint your eyes just right.
But then there are bullies that wield trademark for purposes that are completely illegitimate. You may recall that Walmart, exemplar of virtuous corporate ideology to be sure, went after some of its Canadian workers for trademark infringement, even though the real aim was to try to tamp down those workers’ plans to unionize. The bullshit claim was that the union’s name and its websites name, Walmart Workers Canada, were going to cause the public to think that the union was endorsed by Walmart itself. This is hilariously unlikely for any number of reasons, but also flies in the face of the fact that it cannot be trademark infringement to accurately title the name of your organization based on its purpose.
Well, it looks like someone is trying this in the United States now. Medieval Times, the company that sets up fake castles where you go and eat, drink, and watch jousting matches, has sued its own employees that are attempting to unionize under the exact same trademark infringement scenario.
In its lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, Medieval Times said the union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, had created “consumer confusion” by allowing workers to use the name “Medieval Times Performers United.” The company claims the union is “threatening the established goodwill of Medieval Times” by including the chain’s name and medieval-themed imagery in its name and logo.
“The elements featured in the Medieval Times Performers Logo (i.e., castle, swords, old script style text) all resemble elements of Medieval Times’s branding and middle ages-themed décor, which are clearly meant to evoke Medieval Times’ unique image,” the company said in its lawsuit.
Yes, of course they are. These workers work for Medieval Times. As for the claims that the branding is similar, you can see everything the company lays out in the embedded filing below. That being said, here is one example the company provides.
Uh, no, not similar font styles. Like… at all. They’re completely different fonts and in different coloration. The other examples are just as bad. For example, the union logo has two swords crossing behind the emblem. The company claims this is trademark infringement because in the gift shops at the “castles” the company often has a display where multiple swords are pointed inward. Think I’m exaggerating? Well…
Add to all of that the fact that the union’s proposed name is an accurate description of the organization and you’re left with the notion that this is all clearly protected speech and/or fair use of the company’s trademarked name.
So, what’s going on here? Like we said from the top: bullying. The company is looking to make the process of unionizing as painful as possible for its workers. For its part, the union is discussing whether to get the National Labor Relations Board involved, which it damned well should. Especially considering that there are similar unions that have sprung up in other companies where this so-called trademark infringement has never been at issue.
Many workers have been organizing new unions lately under a variation of the “united” theme. Some examples are Starbucks Workers United, Trader Joe’s United and Home Depot Workers United. To HuffPost’s knowledge, none of those companies have sued the worker organizations for alleged trademark infringement.
Same. Maybe it’s time for Medievel Times to get with the modern times and stop trying to keep the union from forming by abusing trademark law.
Filed Under: bullying, medieval times performers united, trademark, unions
Companies: american guild of variety artists, medieval times