4 September 2019TrademarksRory O'Neill

Obamas’ TV production company seeks TM invalidation

Barack and Michelle Obama are seeking to have a trademark invalidated to clear the way for the registration of their own production company’s name, ‘Higher Ground Productions’.

The Obamas announced the establishment of Higher Ground in May 2018, after signing a deal with Netflix to create films and TV shows.

But the former White House inhabitants have so far struggled to register the company’s name as a trademark.

In April this year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected the company’s trademark application, citing an earlier mark for “Higher Ground Enterprises”.

That mark is owned by a California-based e-book publishing company of the same name, which registered the mark in 2017.

According to the invalidation action, Higher Ground Productions is seeking cancellation of the California company’s mark based on a lack of use.

Higher Ground Enterprises’ attorney Larry Zerner said on Twitter that the invalidation action filed by the Obamas’ company was “really deplorable behaviour”.

“Instead of moving on, the Obamas' lawyers filed a petition to cancel my client's trademark based on absolutely no facts,” he said.

Zerner, who had a role in the 1982 horror film “Friday the 13th Part III”, said his client had been using the “Higher Ground” mark for more than ten years.

The Obamas’ company had argued before the USPTO that there are other marks containing the phrase “Higher Ground”, demonstrating that they could co-exist without a risk of confusion.

But those marks, the USPTO said, including a previous registration for “Higher Ground Leadership”, covered “substantially different goods and services” than the two marks at issue in the current dispute.

The Obamas are seeking registration in class 41, covering video and film production, while the ‘Higher Ground Enterprises’ mark is in the same class for photography, books, and music.

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