–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney
Lest you think this post is just an excuse to post the ridiculously viral video of The Muppets singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” guess again. There is a trademark lesson here.
Do I still have your attention? The lesson is this – you, the consumer, don’t need to know what the source of a good or service is for that good or service’s mark to function as a mark. All that matters is that mark is capable of signifying a single source, regardless of whether any consumers know what that single source is.
Case in point – when I saw this video, I thought of the late, great Jim Henson, who passed away from complications of pneumonia in 1990. But there’s the rub – Mr. Henson hasn’t had a hand in The Muppets since his death (pun intended). As much as I love The Muppets, I couldn’t for the life of me remember who – or what – is the source of The Muppets. A bit of searching, and the answer was clear: the owner of The Muppets (and the MUPPETS family of trademark registrations) is the Muppets Studio, LLC (The Walt Disney Company). In contrast, the JIM HENSON portfolio of marks is owned by the Jim Henson Company, which I believe is unaffiliated with Disney. The fact that I still think of Jim Henson when Animal cries “Mama!” is irrelevant for the purposes of trademark law. In the end all that matters is that the source of goods and services featuring Animal – whatever he happens to be crying – is the same source of goods and services featuring Miss Piggy, Fozze the Bear, Kermit the Frog, and the rest of The Muppets.