Protecting Oscar

The Academy awards is around the corner with Bradley Cooper making it into the Oscar nomination for the third consecutive time, this time for American Sniper. Last year Cooper had taken the very popular celebrity selfie at the awards (from Ellen Degeneres phone?). The jury is still contemplating on who owns the copyright to the selfie. Interestingly this is not the first time issues regarding copyright surround the Oscars!

Oscar Academy mantra

The preamble of the Oscars says – “The Academy, as the copyright owner of the Academy’s “Oscar” statuette, and owner of its trademarks and service marks, including OSCAR®, OSCARS®, ACADEMY AWARD®, ACADEMY AWARDS®, OSCAR NIGHT®, A.M.P.A.S.® and the federally registered “Oscar” design mark, is required to protect its properties against unauthorized uses and infringements.”

The Academy has 20 individual rules to govern the use of its trademarks and copyrighted symbols and six separate policies to regulate use of Academy award ceremony footage. When you watch the Academy Awards this time, look closely at the posters and ads and you will find the sacred ® alongside the images.

While the award was first presented in 1929, the Oscar statuette was trademark-registered and copyrighted only in 1975. Four years later the words “Oscar” and “Academy Awards” were also tagged by the ®. Ever since the Academy Awards organizers have been closely watching award designs and names around the world, suing those who dare to steep into their guarded territory. For one, Edwardsville, an event planner, was sued in 2012 for allegedly renting and selling oversized Oscar statuettes.

Why, even Toyota’s advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi was legally threatened by the Academy Awards management for using unauthorized images of the Oscar statute to promote its products. This resulted in the ad agency making cash settlements for every instance of usage.

Flaunting title is no easy job

Did you know that even movie makers cannot just flaunt the title of “Oscar winner” for their actors and actresses? You read that right. When an Oscar winning actor is cast in a new film, the title needs to mention the name of the movie that won him/her the Academy Award!

And if that’s not all, early last year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued the heirs of Joseph Wright for auctioning away his award. The Academy rulebook states that it has the first right to refusal to purchase an Oscar statuette that has been awarded from the winner or the successor. Wright had won the first edition of the Academy Awards in 1942 for Color and Art Direction in My Gal Sal. And now, his heirs and the auctioning company are facing the legal tune with the Academy seeking punitive damages and compensatory damages in excess of $79,200. It is also demanding that it be allowed to purchase the statuette for $10.

Other than these trademark and copyright issues related to the Oscar statuette and trademarked names, in 2005, eight individuals were charged for illegal distribution of the Star Wars Oscar screeners print of Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. With the Oscars set to blaze television screens the world over on Sunday, will there be more celebrities doing an a-la Bradley Cooper and posting them on social media? But even better, will social media users face copyright issues for resharing these selfies at the Oscars?

(Featured image source: https://pixabay.com/en/oscar-the-oscar-award-studio-show-649298/)

Vivek T
Vivek T

For Vivek, finding the best evidence in a patent case is like manna to his intellect. He hopes to beat Phileas Fogg’s record of travelling around the world in less than 80 day, albeit in a luxurious liner.


Rushanthini Subramaniam
Rushanthini Subramaniam

Rushanthini is a pro in mining the best infringement evidence to strengthen contentions. A techno geek, she enjoys delving into the finer nuances of patenting activities and blogging about them.


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