from the slots-of-fun dept
Another day, another trademark dispute with one side weaponizing a trademark for a commonly used phrase and stretching the definition of common marketplaces. The latest foray into making my head hurt with this sort of thing is between MRC, producers of the Netflix drama House of Cards, and D2 Holdings, which claims to have trademarked the phrase and licenses for a radio program that covers gambling. At issue is a soon-to-be-released series of House of Cards themed slot machines in casinos across the nation.
In the suit, D2 Holdings claims that it owns the trademark for “House of Cards” in word form, and licenses the phrase for a gaming-centric radio show of the same name. D2 is taking issue with the slot games “House of Cards Power and Money” and “House of Cards Welcome to Washington,” which it says “are slated for placement in casinos in the first quarter of 2016.”
Where to begin? First, any mark on a commonly used phrase, such as “house of cards”, is already problematic and ought to have a very specific focus on a narrow application of the mark if it’s going to be approved. Add to that that licensing the phrase to a gambling radio show isn’t competing in the same marketplace as a series of slot machines in casinos and I’m struggling to see how this lawsuit doesn’t get immediately laughed out of court. Radio programming isn’t gambling, no matter the subject of the show. If this line of thought were to be validated, I imagine all kinds of sports radio programming would be in deep trouble, as radio shows covering sports use all kinds of sports-related phrases that are likely trademarked by all kinds of entities. If those sports radio shows are suddenly seen to be in the marketplace of “sports” rather than “radio”, there could be all kinds of infringement suits brought against them. That, of course, won’t happen, because radio does not equal sports. It also doesn’t equal slot machines.
But even putting that aside, the claim from D2 Holdings that there is real customer confusion to worry about is laughable.
“Defendants’ unauthorized use of the House of Cards mark makes it highly likely, if not inevitable, that members of the trade and general public will be confused and assume, incorrectly, that the House of Cards mark is owned by MRC, or that there is an affiliation with D2, or that Plaintiff has sponsored, endorsed or approved these products,” the suit reads.
Yeah, that isn’t going to happen. These machines will be filled with the iconography of the show. Anyone who has seen a themed slot machine knows what they look like and how they are decorated. There will be zero customer confusion between the Netflix show and a gambling radio broadcast. Suggesting otherwise is silly.
Unless D2 Holdings has some ace up its sleeve that I don’t know about, I would expect a quick tossing of this lawsuit.