The world of comic books is a fanciful place, featuring heroes and villains that can seem wholly unrealistic but nevertheless fun. Indeed, if recent box office returns are any indication, our appetite for movies based on those characters have never been higher. Our summers for years to come would appear to be stocked with films that will take us to realms of men of iron, women of wonder, and delightful dancing trees. But one software company tried to claim there’s a bit too much reality in one of our most iconic hero’s films, to no avail.
The software company, Fortres Grand, sued Warner Bros. Entertainment for trademark infringement over the portrayal of a “clean slate” software program in the 2012 Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” only to have their appeal rejected by the 7th District Court earlier this month. In the movie, Selina Kyle’s Catwoman works for a sinister organization, using her skills as a thief in exchange for the promise of a “clean slate” computer program that would delete her criminal record from every computer database in the world. Fortres Grand sells and holds a trademark on a product known as “Clean Slate.” Not unlike the film version, Fortes Grand’s software program erases information on a computer, in this case any changes made within a session upon logout. The product is aimed at libraries, schools, hotels, and other businesses that may have computers shared by multiple users.
In its suit, Fortres Grand is claiming “reverse confusion” on the part of Warner Bros., asserting that the studio’s ability to flood the market with its own version of the “clean slate” caused confusion amongst consumers. Warner Bros. also created two websites for Rykin Data Corporation, the fictitious firm that created the “clean slate,” as part of their promotion efforts for the movie. Fortres Grand alleges that those sites, along with the use of “clean slate” within the film, may have created the impression that their product was a fake looking to capitalize on the film version. The company claims that sales of Clean Slate dropped significantly after the film’s release.
In his ruling, Judge Daniel Manion stated that while Fortres Grand wants to claim confusion on the grounds that their mark is used in a film, there is no ground for their claim as Warner Bros. does not sell any merchandise similar to Fortres Grand’s product, nor could it reasonably be assumed that their desktop management software is in any way related to the film or Warner Bros.
While it may seem unlikely that your mark would be used in a blockbuster film one day, it’s still vital that your trademarks and any other intellectual property are protected.