Halloween was more tricks than treats for Marvel this year. Marvel’s attempt to register a trademark concerning a comic book story arc named MONSTERS UNLEASHED! was opposed by the company that distributes Monster Energy drink.

Image of Monsters Unleashed!

Cover of one of the original Marvel Monsters Unleashed! magazines.

From 1973 to 1975, Marvel ran an 11 part magazine entitled “Monsters Unleashed!” which told stories of the horror / monster part of the Marvel Universe including such characters as Frankenstein, Dracula, Man-Thing, and Wendigo. In January 2017, the name was brought back to life and told the story of Marvel superheroes fighting monsters that appeared all over the planet. In March 2017, Marvel filed the trademark registration application to formally register MONSTERS UNLEASHED! Interesting, Marvel did not refer to the old 1970’s line of comics and claimed first usage only back to January 2017. However, Marvel’s use of the term pre-dated Monster Energy and more about that below.

Monster Energy is no stranger to such battles. The company has be famous (infamous) for opposing numerous trademarks that contain the MONSTER mark. On Halloween, (spooooky) Monster Energy opposed the issuance of the MONSTERS UNLEASHED! trademark. Since 2002, Monster Energy has used the term MONSTER in association with its energy drink and related products. Monster Energy also owns several trademark for the term UNLEASH THE BEAST. So you can see exactly why Monster Energy is opposing here. Monster Energy points out that its marks were AFTER the first claimed use of the MONSTER UNLEASHED! mark but it really wasn’t. In trademark law in the United States, priority goes to the first person to use a mark. I am not very familiar with this line of comics but if Marvel has still been using the mark, Marvel’s use was first, but why they didn’t claim use back to 1973?

The “Monsters Unleashed” term has actually been used by a lot of other companies including the cinematic classic Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (which I thoroughly enjoyed) so this is not a favorite going into this fight. Also, confusion seems less likely her because Marvel wants the mark in a class for comic books and Monster Energy does not distribute products in this class.

If rationality wins out, the parties will come to an agreement that allows them both to use the mark. Let’s keep the lawyers leashed in the future and try to come to a peaceful solution.