February 19, 2007
Brand Naming and Trademarks: The Fight Over Red Eye and GMAIL
The Chicago Tribune and Fox News are embroiled in a suit over the “Red Eye” name.
The Chicago Tribune has a free, five year old weekly tabloid called RedEye that covers current events and celebrity gossip, while Fox earlier this month introduced a late night show called “Red Eye.” The Tribune has two federal trademark registrations on RedEye, one for the name and one for the design.
The name “Red Eye” is certainly in common usage, but the Chicago Tribune might get legal traction from the fact that the paper and the Fox TV show seemed to be aimed at the same demographic and have extremely similar content, leading potential customers to erroneously assume “Fox and the RedEye products owned by Tribune are collaborating, thereby causing confusion.”
Fox, for its part, seems to have admitted to not doing a trademark search before the show’s first airing on February 6th, and “ignored” the newspaper's request not to use the name before the initial broadcast.
More care might have been taken to recognize that a potential “lawsuit” was coming, not least because it would have been clear that another news agency was already using this trademarked name and obviously prepared to defend it.
Therefore, if the Chicago Tribune's claims do hold water legally, it appears that it will be due to sheer negligence and hubris on Fox’s part. A preliminary injunction has been motioned and the first hearing will be on February 26. I have to add that it seems almost impossible to believe that a trademark search was not made on such a common name, but that might be the crux of the matter:
“Red Eye” looks to the average person as a name up for grabs; it is synonymous with early morning anything. But the Chicago Tribune's claims look pretty strong - ”likelihood of confusion” in this case is indeed pretty likely.
I predict, however, that a group of Polish poets are not going to be so lucky.
They are facing a similar problem as the Red Eye issue, but their fight is with Google over the domain name “gmail.pl” which was sold to them by a local provider. Turns out that GMAIL is an acronym in Polish for Grupa Mlodych Artystow i Literatow or Group of Young Artists and Writers.
Whoever sold these guys the domain name did so in error. Justice (poetic or not) might be Google’s, in this case. Negligently using a protected brand name, whether you are a poet or a TV broadcaster, is just not going to fly.
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