STX Productions, the company producing the upcoming film Happytime Murders, is facing a lawsuit from Sesame Workshop, the creators of the famous children's TV show Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop have complained that the marketing campaign for the new movie infringes its 'Sesame Street' trade mark and harms their goodwill.
Happytime Murders is a film featuring Mellisa McCarthy focusing on what puppets get up to when children aren't around. This includes having sex, taking drugs and committing acts of violence. Sesame Workshop argues that this totally contradicts the original message of the educational children's TV show.
On promotional material the movie displays the tagline "No Sesame. All Street". Sesame workshop argues that this damages the Sesame Street brand and is likely to confuse consumers in to thinking that the show and the movie are linked.
Sesame Workshop own the registered trademark "SESAME STREET", and STX Productions have no right to use the mark. They have replied to the lawsuit (via their puppet lawyer Fred) that they are confident in their legal position, and that the tag line does not infringe on the Sesame Street brand. They continue to include the tag line in the trailer which has both appalled and enthralled viewers in seemingly equal number.
The lawsuit filed at New York federal court has called for punitive damages and a jury trial. However, Sesame Workshop do not seek to block the film's promotion. They do, however, make reference to the film's "explicit, profane, drug using, misogynistic, violent, copulating and even ejaculating" puppets, and that the tag line "deliberately confuses consumers".
However, the film does have a legitimate connection to Sesame Street: it's director is Brian Henson, son of the late Jim Henson, co-creator of Sesame Street and The Muppets. It is through STX Productions' work with Henson and the Jim Henson Company that the film has come about.
With the film due for release on 17 August, we wait to see whether the lawsuit will bring about an end to the use of the tag line in the advertising, or only serve to increase public awareness of and interest in the film.
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in: EU/International, News, Trade Marks