The Hollywood Reporter reported the other day that Massachusetts based company D2 Holdings, LLC. has filed suit against the Netflix drama “House of Cards” distribution company MRC II Distribution Company claiming trademark infringement and requesting that any use of the mark stop and be destroyed.
First, I suggest that MRC renames the show “In Frank We Trust” or some other variation of one of Frank Underwood’s campaign slogans.
Second, without having read the complaint and just reading the Hollywood Reporter article and the USPTO docket, I believe that D2 Holdings will most likely win out on this one and walk away with an amazing licensing deal if they are willing to go that route.
The USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System pulls a list of 20 marks, live and dead when the exact phrase “House of Cards” is searched.
D2 Holdings is the owner of Reg. No.: 3642647 for the following goods and services in Class 41:
Entertainment in the nature of an on-going special variety, news, music or comedy show featuring games of chance and poker broadcast over television, satellite, audio, and video media; Entertainment in the nature of visual and audio performances, and musical, variety, news and comedy shows; Entertainment services, namely, a multimedia program series featuring comedy, action and adventure distributed via various platforms across multiple forms of transmission media; Entertainment services, namely, providing an on-going radio program in the field of gaming and poker.
The mark was registered on June 23, 2009, with a first use date of September 11, 2007.
The series first aired in the U.S. when the entire first season was released on Netflix on February 1, 2013. However the U.K. series which consisted of four episodes aired during the winter of 1990. Both series were adapted from Michael Dobbs book of the same title, that was published in 1989. (I have yet to read the book but it can be purchased on Amazon.com if you need more “House of Cards” in your life.)
The mark in question that MRC II has been using for a television series was first used approximately 4 years after D2 had registered their mark in Class 41 with the USPTO. However in September 2014, MRC II did file, U.S. Application Serial No.: 86393463, for the “House of Cards” mark in Class 41 with the following goods and services:
Entertainment in the nature of ongoing television programs in the field of drama; Entertainment services, namely, an ongoing series featuring drama provided through Internet transmission and streaming services; Entertainment, namely, a continuing dramatic television show broadcast over Internet websites and streaming services
Upon filing this mark, the USPTO issued an office action citing D2 Holdings mark against MRC II’s application. It appears as though MRC II sat on the office action and never responded according to the USPTO’s docket history of Serial No.: 86393463. The office action detailed a likelihood of confusion between the two marks, pointing to the marks being identical coupled with similar goods and services.
It should be interesting to watch this case going forward, as MRC II has filed other applications for the the mark “House of Cards” as a character only mark and as a design mark.
I’ll be sure to provide any updates on this case going forward.