When reality becomes stranger than fiction, one would think that scripted television would tend to suffer. Reading about the creation of the Space Force certainly felt like living inside fiction when the news broke a couple years ago, and so when the announcement of a TV show of the same name came later, it was hard to imagine how it could be any stranger or funnier than its real-world counterpart.
Now both have arrived, and while the series has middling-to-poor reviews, it's performing well as far as intellectual property is concerned, and far ahead of the actual military branch in protecting its brand.
The Hollywood Reporter details how "Space Force" the Netflix series is outpacing the newly-christened military branch in applying for trademarks around the world, perhaps speaking as much to Netflix's global reach as it does to the Space Force's passivity in this regard. While the Air Force does have a pending trademark application with the USPTO based upon intent to use, THR lists Europe, Australia and Mexico as locales where Netflix has trademark applications on the books, ahead of applications from the military.
At this point, you could argue that the show has, if not a better claim, at least a bigger share of the public awareness. The marketing strength and ubiquity of Netflix means that millions of people are aware of the show's existence, even if they haven't watched it, and most could tell you that it stars Steve Carell; meanwhile, you'd be pressed to find someone who could tell you what the actual Space Force does, and many might be surprised to find it actually exists and wasn't just a big announcement that fizzled out.
So it remains to be seen if the applications presage a future fight between the military and Netflix over international IP rights. It's worth considering the tone of the show in that regard; it's a comedy, which seems to be a foregone genre in the fictional military genre. Most depictions of the military make it seem cool and exciting, and while that's undoubtedly a function of trying to make interesting films or shows, how much of that is mandated by the military in order to use its name and brand in those projects? If "Space Force" makes the Space Force look anything less than serious, will Netflix get more pushback than they would if they had made a show that did more to valorize the unit?
Ultimately, trademarks might not matter that much; by the time the Space Force actually makes it into space, the show will have long since ended, and no amount of levity will dampen the enthusiasm of young men and women looking to live out dreams of space travel. For now, it seems both the show and the military branch need to worry about themselves before they worry about the other.