Yes, another slogan lawsuit — one of my favorite topics (also here and here). A Fort Lauderdale company has sued the makers of the “Bee Movie” over the use of their slogan, “Give Bees a Chance.”Nick Daly of the Google Copyright blog writes in:
I’ve got another great slogan lawsuit for you. Looks like a company that sells cosmetics containing honey is suing Dreamworks and Paramount over the slogan “Give Bees a Chance,” which is registered to the cosmetics company and was used in television commercials for the movie. It’s a total stretch, but can’t be surprised since the parties were in negotiations over licensing of the slogan only to have the studios use it anyway. He’s most likely just bitter he didn’t get anything out of it.
As an aside, since the movie wouldn’t need to license the slogan from this company, what is the practical effect of even having licensing negotiations if they fall through and the slogan gets used anyway? Do prior negotiations matter to a court, or will the court simply look at the final use and only consider prior negotiations to find some sort of bad faith if the eventual use does infringe? It seems plenty of people think that prior negotiations means they’ll win their suit, even if the subsequent use isn’t infringement.
Well, unless there were all sorts of disclaimers signed before the negotiations began, I would think that negotiations could matter. They certainly go to willfulness if an infringement is ultimately found. But of course, they’re not determinative. The plaintiff will say, “They asked our permission, which they knew they needed, but when we asked for a fair price, they decided to just steamroll us and go ahead without permission.” The defendant can say just as credibly, “We didn’t think we needed permission, but for a fair enough price we sought to avoid any exposure or litigation risk. We couldn’t get that price.”
Ultimately, for the lawyers it’s a win-win. A stinging litigation rebuke for the hourly-fee litigator is still laced with sweetness. Of course, not knowing the actual facts here, I have no idea which side will win. I’m pretty inclined not to trust Hollywood, though, and I gotta bee me.
UPDATE: Settled, yep.