The U.S. Space Force just lost its first legal battle over the trademark rights of the Space Force logo to Netflix, which recently released a television show called “Space Force.”
Netflix has secured the Space Force trademark in Europe, Australia, Mexico and elsewhere, the Hollywood Reporter first reported. Meanwhile the Space Force, under which the Air Force will operate — as the Marines operate under the Navy — only owns a pending application for registration inside the United States based on an intent to use.
Although the public will not likely confuse the two, the real issue boils down to apparel, the outlet reported. The trademark battle would help consumers understand where their money is going.
An Air Force spokesman downplayed the battle in a statement to the Hollywood reporter.
“At this time, we are not aware of any trademark conflicts with the fictional program ‘Space Force’ produced by Netflix,” the spokesman said. “We wish Netflix and the show’s producers the best in their creative depiction of our nation’s newest branch of the military.”
If the Air Force had won the battle or registered the trademark before Netflix, it is unlikely it would pursue legal action against Netflix. Netflix would be protected under parody law as “Space Force” is a comedy series starring Steve Carell. Additionally, the military has been historically relaxed in trademark claims, according to the Reporter.
On top of that, the Air Force has a section on its website for “entertainment uses,” which tells potential licensees, “The proper use of symbols in feature films, documentaries, educational pieces, television shows, news programs and all other kinds of media is incredibly important. We want you to be able to tell a rich and engaging story while we put our best foot forward.”
However, a potentially larger legal battle wouldn’t be unprecedented. The Department of Defense formed a new directive on copyrights and trademarks in 2007. Since then the U.S. Marine Corps has pressured sites that produce apparel to stop selling USMC-branded merchandise. Some of the sites include Zazzle, CafePress, and Etsy.
Gizmodo notes that the entire dispute may not continue further as the show has received negative reviews. “Space Force” has a 42 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the few positive ratings it did receive were “not great,” as the outlet reported.
Some samples of the show’s reviews call it “shockingly unfunny,” “so strange and ill-conceived and ill-timed that not even Carell’s avuncular bonhomie can save it,” “decidedly dull, to the point that humor has been transported elsewhere,” and “pathetically offering up zingers on office rivalries, nepotism, and weird co-workers.”
This article was updated to correct a typo that incorrectly identified Space Force as Air Force.