From the makers of almost Disney trademarks but not quite, “Zombie Cinderella” and “Teen Tink” comes the next not-quite-Disney mark: SINCE 1951 JUNIOR ELF ORIGINAL CARS BUDDY THE LITTLE TAXI. However, with this latest mark, toy distributor United Trademark Holdings, Inc. (“UTH”) appears to be moving into the amusement park industry.
United Trade Holdings, Inc. (“UTH”) has a habit of walking the line of trademark infringement. In 2014, Disney lost an attempt to prevent UTH’s registration of the ZOMBIE CINDERELLA mark, which we wrote about here. Disney’s opposition to UTH’s line of teen Disney characters, including TEEN TINK, is still ongoing. We wrote about that case here. UTH targets characters made famous—but not owned by—Disney, like Cinderella. These characters are based on very old fairytales, and are in the public domain; though Disney may own trademarks for the characters’ names, Disney cannot exclude others from telling their own tales of these characters.
However, Disney’s “Cars” is different. Rather than borrowing from old fairytales, “Cars” tells a unique story. In addition to the copyright implications, Disney owns the trademark to CARS and CARS LAND for amusement park and theme parks. UTH’s new mark is for amusement park and theme parks.
Disney filed for opposition and must argue that UTH’s mark is confusingly similar to Disney’s trademarks. In short, Disney will argue that when you see UTH’s mark, you would be confused and think the park was from or endorsed by Disney. UTH’s ZOMBIE CINDERELLA mark succeeded because, although the dominant part of the mark, the term “Cinderella,” was similar to Disney’s trademark, the preceding text, “Zombie,” was very different from “Walt Disney.” Similarly, UTH’s new mark prominently features the word “CARS.” Will the surrounding text, including the actually unreadable “the Little Taxi” portion, be enough to distinguish it? UTH’s answer is due September 9th.
Author and M/L intern, Kathleen Riley is a rising 3L at UNC School of Law studying intellectual property.