Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Will Batman go after Bat Man?

Dear Rich: I had been doing a weekly online radio show or podcast called the Tom and Bat Man show. (We intentionally spelled Batman as two words). It was a show about technology for normal people. My nickname for years has been Batman. I would say that more people know me by my nickname than my real name. The show has nothing to do with comic books, crime fighting, nor do we play any music from the movies, or sounds. Pretty much I'm only referred to as Bat Man on the show when my co-host Tom is talking about me. We have since stopped doing the show and I believe I will be now doing the show on my own, having special weekly guests. Am I breaking trademark, or copyright in having a title like The Craig (Bat Man) Show or something like that? Right now I am not making any money on it, but possible could be accepting advertising in the future. Since we are not dealing with anything DC related, would having "Bat Man" spelled differently give me problems? The short answer is that we can't tell you whether DC Comics, the owner of the Batman mark will hassle you, and we can't tell you whether they would prevail in a dispute. (We can't even say for sure whether they'll hassle the Dear Rich Staff for using the old logo). 
What we can tell you ... (1) For trademark purposes, there is no discernible difference between "Bat Man" and "Batman" especially for radio listeners. Having a soundalike mark doesn't mean you can't use your name, but soundalikes are often considered as substantially similar or identical. (2)  DC seeks a broad range of protection for its marks and logos (and there is a wide variety of Batman logos). DC has registered numerous trademarks including, obviously the word, BATMAN, for entertainment services. (3) DC Comics spends a lot of time and money going after anyone who encroaches their turf -- they even stopped a comic book store using 'Batcave' (at least that's what we said in one of our books). 
Bottom line dept.  Since you are offering entertainment/educational services and have an identical mark, DC would have a strong case against you. So, if you're looking for a moniker you can count on for a long term success, we wouldn't bet on Bat Man.