Article Sesame Street Sues STX Entertainment For Alleged Trademark Appropriation in Happytime Murders Movie Marketing Campaign

Christopher M
May 30, 2018, 12:06amEDT
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Last Thursday, the Sesame Workshop filed a lawsuit against STX Entertainment for alleged trademark appropriation over the usage of "NO SESAME. ALL STREET." line in The Happytime Murders movie marketing campaign. Claiming in the lawsuit that STX Productions is deliberately trying to appropriate the Sesame Street trademark in order to promote their R-rated movie

"Sesame seeks to enjoin Defendants' [STX Productions, etc.] deliberate effort to appropriate its SESAME STREET mark, and its trusted brand and goodwill, to promote their R-rated movie, The Happytime Murders, by way of a violent and sexually-explicit trailer. SESAME STREET is a registered trademark of Sesame, an organization with a long and storied history of 'helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.' ... Defendants [STX Productions, etc.] do not own, control or have any right to use the SESAME STREET mark. Instead, they are distributing a trailer that deliberately confuses consumers into mistakenly believing that Sesame is associated with, has allowed, or has even endorsed or produced the movie and tarnishes Sesame’s brand."

According to the movie's official website, "The Happytime Murders is a filthy comedy set in the underbelly of Los Angeles where puppets and humans coexist. Two clashing detectives with a shared secret, one human (Melissa McCarthy) and one puppet, are forced to work together again to solve the brutal murders of the former cast of a beloved classic puppet television show." The phrase "NO SESAME. ALL STREET.", which sparked the lawsuit, is used on all the marketing and promotional material, including the movie's red-band trailer.

STX responded to the lawsuit with a statement from their puppet legal representative, Fred, who stated, "STX loved the idea of working closely with Brian Henson and the Jim Henson Company to tell the untold story of the active lives of Henson puppets when they’re not performing in front of children. 'Happytime Murders' is the happy result of that collaboration and we're incredibly pleased with the early reaction to the film and how well the trailer has been received by its intended audience. While we're disappointed that Sesame Street does not share in the fun, we are confident in our legal position. We look forward to introducing adult moviegoers to our adorably unapologetic characters this summer."

The Northeast based lawyer Leonard French, who runs the YouTube channel Lawful Masses with Leonard French, recently made a video examining the Sesame lawsuit, titled Sesame Street sues Happytime Murders for Trademark Infringement. In the thirty plus minute video, Leonard and his guest come to the conclusion that Sesame's argument for trademark confusion doesn't hold up as there is no way that Sesame's target audience of parents with zero to five-year-old would see an advertisement of the movie and think Sesame Street was affiliated. With Leonard stating, "The outrage is actually evidence not of confusion. I'm sure that there could be people who think that there's an association, or ask about an association. But that too, they're asking about an association then that is also evidence that they aren't entirely confused. They're concerned and they might be confused in the colloquial sense but are they being truly confused as to the source of the goods and services. Asking is evidence that they don't know and that's not confusion. That's not what we're calling confusion. Confusion is when you go to the store and you go to grab a can of Coke, but you grab a red can with a wavy white line and a scripted Cola on the side of it and you thought that you grabbed Coke because it looked so similar, that's confusion. Actual confusing in the buying of the product. So confusion here would be a mother of a zero to five-year-old child, who is one-hundred percent aware of Sesame Street, taking the child to The Happytime Murders and then saying, 'I really thought this was regular Sesame Street.' So no, I don't think this is trademark confusion."

The full Sesame Street v. Happytime Murders complaint is available on the Lawful Masses website.

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