-Wes Anderson, Attorney
As we gather with family and friends to give thanks this holiday here in the U.S., let’s look back and think of those that won’t be with us at the Thanksgiving dinner table. For me, BETAMAX comes to mind.
What’s that, you say? BETAMAX, the video cassette format that unsuccessfully battled VHS in the 1980s, has been defunct for decades? Not according to Sony, its owner and developer, which announced the official demise of BETAMAX branded video tapes just earlier this month. According to Sony, the analog video format continued to live on in Japan for decades, and will only now be shuttered once production of BETAMAX cassettes ceases in 2016. Only then can we begin to formally mourn the loss of that second-place video format.
And in some ways, BETAMAX will continue to live on. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, BETAMAX remains very much alive in the United States. It turns out Sony owns various registrations for BETAMAX, including this one for “cassettes” in Class 9. As it happens, this particular registration was even renewed in 2007, so it will remain in place until at least 2017. Sony’s 2007 filing attests to continued use of the mark in U.S. commerce, and features a specimen that appears to be straight out of the 1980s.
Always good to know that the PTO will take a registrant’s word for it when it comes to continuous use in commerce, even for a trademark that is nowadays synonymous with obsolescence.
In a way, it’s fitting that BETAMAX will live on, at least for a little while, given its importance in the history of intellectual property law. It was Sony and its BETAMAX format that successfully took on the movie studios in the Supreme Court case Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., which ruled that recording television shows constitutes fair use, and not copyright infringement.
It’s thanks to BETAMAX that the DVR exists today – and why we can happily fast forward through the many Christmas-themed commercials that will bombard us for the next month. Truly, something to be thankful for.
p.s.: the source of the title can be found here.