No spoilers here, I promise. Like many Americans since it was released on Friday, I’ve been binge-watching Season 3 of House of Cards. If you haven’t watched the program, available only on Netflix, it’s a riveting drama of political intrigue with stellar acting featuring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. The promise of another House of Cards season certainly makes wintry February in Minnesota more palatable. And if you need more than 13 episodes a year, there’s a British version (which much like history precedes the American reign). You know something’s become a cultural phenomenon when Sesame Street even parodies it.
Given the celebrity monsoon of trademark filings for various slogans, nicknames, and important marks for singers, professional athletes, and actors on a slew of goods and services, I was surprised that a trademark search yesterday revealed hardly any filings for “Frank Underwood,” “Underwood 2016,” and most surprisingly HOUSE OF CARDS. It’s clearly an incredibly valuable brand for Netflix, changing the course of the company from just an internet Blockbuster to a blockbuster maker.
There’s even a recent third party registration for a House Of Cards wine.
But, as for the popular program, no registrations. Not for entertainment, not for apparel, nothing.
There’s a pending application for the mark covering the program but it looks like someone is standing in the way of Frank Underwood obtaining of a trademark registration. As Frank would say, “It only takes 10 seconds to crush a man’s ambitions.” Here’s the specimen:
The U.S. Trademark Office has refused registration of Netflix’s HOUSE OF CARDS on the basis of a previously registered trademark for HOUSE OF CARDS. To this, Netflix might say, in the words of Frank’s wife Claire, “you don’t want to make an enemy out of me.” The Netflix show’s application, filed by MRC II Distribution Company L.P., is for:
- entertainment in the nature of ongoing television programs in the field of drama;
- entertainment services, namely, an ongoing series featuring drama provided through Internet transmission and streaming services;
- entertainment, namely, a continuing dramatic television show broadcast over Internet websites and streaming services.”
The prior HOUSE OF CARDS registration owned by Douglas and David Weischadle is for some seemingly overlapping services which include:
- entertainment in the nature of visual and audio performances, and musical, variety, news and comedy shows;
- entertainment services, namely, a multimedia program series featuring comedy, action and adventure distributed via various platforms across multiple forms of transmission media.
In use, it appears to be for radio, podcast and video programs relating to poker. But the registration has broad applicability to the services applied for under the application for the Netflix program, even though its services are tailored to drama or dramatic performances.
No response has been filed to the refusal from late December, and the owners of the Netflix registration have six months to respond.
While the publicly available U.S. Trademark Office records certainly don’t tell the whole story, and perhaps there’s been some scheming and behind-closed-door negotiations, it is remarkable that the trademark application for Netflix’s powerhouse HOUSE OF CARDS series (produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey) was filed just 6 months ago, even though the program debuted in February 2013. The filing was also made just weeks after the Weischadles filed their Section 8 Declaration of Use, to maintain the registration.
We can certainly speculate like political talking heads on This Week or Meet the Press. Was it a savvy move to wait? Who might prevail? What’s their next move? Are we headed for a protracted debate?
But if you don’t want to opine on that, who’s your favorite character and what’s one of your favorite HoC quotes? I really like Jackie Sharp, and although there are many one-liners that I really like from the show, one of my favorites (without a season 3 spoiler, so this is from season 2) is “generosity is its own form of power.” Share your favorites in the comments below.