–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney
[Spoiler alert – this post is about the season finale of Mad Men. If you haven’t watched it, please skip this post (never fear, you can revisit it in the archives once you’ve watched the episode)].
In the season finale of Mad Men, the best show on television, the executives of the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency stage a mutiny upon learning that Putnam Powell and Lowe, the British agency that purchased Sterling Cooper only a year ago, is now selling Sterling Cooper to McCann-Ericson. Taking the proverbial bull by the horns, the team works all weekend to secure clients, ensure the confidence and loyalty of the top creative and account management talent, and a hotel room at The Pierre from which to launch their new empire.
The name of their new agency? Sterling Cooper Draper Price. Short, crisp, to the point and accurate, as it reflects the names of the main players in the new partnership forged in the dark of night – Sterling Cooper founders Burt Cooper and, by way of inheritance, Roger Sterling, creative director Don Draper, and CFO Lane Price.
But is it legal? Probably not.
The reason, simply put, is that Powell Putnam and Lowe, the current owner of Sterling Cooper, likely assumed ownership of the rights of the STERLING COOPER trademark when it purchased the company. Similarly, as McCann-Erickson has purchased the entirety of Powell Putman and Lowe, it likely assumed ownership of those rights as well.
But what about the fact that Sterling Cooper Draper Price is made up of Msgrs. Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Price? Can’t they use their own names to identify their own agency? The answer is no, not unless Sterling Cooper Draper Price purchases back the rights to STERLING COOPER, or McCann-Erickson abandons the mark altogether by subsuming the old Sterling Cooper under the banner of McCann-Erickson, which, notably, Powell Putnam and Lowe did not do, in large part because of its sterling reputation (pun intended!).
Will McCann-Erikson sue Sterling Cooper Draper Price for trademark infringement? Stay tuned over the long haul – we have nine months until Season 4 begins.