I came across an interesting piece — the Ventura County Star reported on July 22 that California native Jim Salzer owns the first U.S. trademark registration for MUGGLES, which he had planned to use in connection with a nightclub to be called “Cafe Muggles.” The nightclub never got off the ground, but Mr. Salzer liked the sound of it so he held onto his registration, which he obtained in 1981. The word “muggles,” of course, entered the popular lexicon as a word for for people without magical powers beginning in June 1997 when J.K. Rowling published her first “Harry Potter” book.
Now, Mr. Salzer wants to sell his MUGGLES mark to Warner Bros., which owns the “Harry Potter” movie and merchandising juggernaut. His asking price? $1 million. Warner Bros. has refused to bite and now, the article says, Mr. Salzer is keeping a “watchful eye” on its use of the word.
I don’t know why. The article doesn’t indicate that Mr. Salzer ever put the mark to use, other than as a cat character with that name that he’s used in “advertising and products over the years.” If he hasn’t put the mark to trademark use — that is, to identify the source of goods or services — he doesn’t have any trademark rights to “sell.” However, the Patent and Trademark Office’s database confirms he has made at least some trademark use. It states he first used the mark in commerce in 1979, and that Mr. Salzer filed his ten-year affidavit of continued use in 2001. Yet, even if Mr. Salzer has continuously used MUGGLES as a trademark, his registration is for “retail gift and novelty store services, and restaurant and night club services.” Therefore, unless Warner Bros. opens a gift shop, restaurant, or nightclub under the name “Muggles,” I wouldn’t think that Mr. Salzer would have much of a case.
That’s one bit of trademark law Leo Stoller overlooked when he offered to license GOOGLE to Google and STEALTH to Columbia Pictures when it was marketing its movie, “Stealth.” (Background via the TTABlog here and here.) Indeed, that little flaw in Mr. Stoller’s business model led to his downfall as a trademark wheeler-and-dealer.
Speaking of Mr. Stoller, I can’t resist noting that the bankruptcy court for the Northern District of Illiniois yesterday reportedly auctioned off his trademark portfolio, such as it is. One of the bidders? A company calling itself the “Society for the Prevention of Trademark Abuse LLC.”
I’ve got some ideas, but someone really has to fess up to who’s behind this outfit.
The Stoller bankruptcy auction (and saga) continues. See Lance Johnson’s comment below for details. Lance, thanks much for bringing us up to date!