Netflix is caught up in a trademark battle with the US government over the use of the Space Force name. However, it seems the streaming giant is ahead of the game, submitting trademark applications earlier than the US armed forces.
Netflix has already secured trademark rights to the Space Force name in Europe, Australia, Mexico, and elsewhere.
America operates on a ‘first-to-use’ trademark registration system, standing in isolated territory to other nations who mostly follow the guise of a ‘first-to-file’ model. This US system basically means that actual ‘use’ in commerce takes priority over who ‘files’ their application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office first.
Netflix have an exclusive television series out, Space Force, which stars Steve Carrell and Greg Daniels. They submitted trademark applications for the show as early as January 2019. Check the first trailer out here.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force has a pending application for registration, which is founded in an ‘intent to use’ agreement. Trump voiced the necessary importance of establishing an armed force from above. After all, it has always been a race for the Americans, when it comes to space: “As you know, China, Russia, perhaps others, started off a lot sooner than us.”
The President also urged that his government must strategically protect American space infrastructure: “Space is a war-fighting domain just like the land, air and sea,” Donald Trump told a group of US Marines in March 2018. It’s worrying to think about, I know…
There seems to be nothing confusing between the two Space Forces. We have a cosmic TV show airing on Earth and armed American astronauts training up in the sky. So what?
Well, the conflict appears to arise when trademark users begin crossing over in similar products. Who owns the Space Force jumper in that store? Is it the Netflix show or the U.S. Space Force? This level of ambiguity has created legal problems for both businesses.
“Trademarks help clarify the source of goods and services,” writes The Hollywood Reporter.
They also explained how US trademark laws are lax enough to allow for “parodies and descriptive uses”. They are also quite flexible with wider uses that steer clear of misleading consumers and work to maintain a reasonable level of artistic relevance.
“At this time, we are not aware of any trademark conflicts with the fictional program Space Force produced by Netflix,” said an Air Force spokesperson. “We wish Netflix and the show’s producers the best in their creative depiction of our nation’s newest branch of the military.”
It seems Netflix are in the lead for now, if the tenets of the First Amendment don’t inherently fuck them over. America has some of the strongest ‘fair use’ standards in the world. It does really seem crazy to take on the US military in court over a television series. But, it is 2020 and America is pretty fucking nuts already we’ve decided.