Friday, April 1, 2011
Can We Turn Boston Red Sox into Zombies?
Trademark parodies. What you need to keep in mind is that you're dealing with trademark parodies, not copyright parodies so the copyright concept of "fair use" isn't really relevant (and we're not going to address trademark fair use which is an entirely different animal.) Here's a previous post on the subject and here's a good explanation of the trademark parody rules. Keep in mind that to create a true trademark parody, you must convey contradictory messages: you want people to think of the MLB, but you also want people to see your use as a parody that's not connected with the MLB (Chilling Effects elaborates on that distinction here -- scroll down for the explanation).
Why will you get sued? Famous companies typically sue over parodies under a trademark theory known as dilution. When you dilute, people think less of the mark because you've tarnished its famous reputation. Even if a company believes you have a good free speech defense, the company may proceed with the lawsuit because it has more money to spend on the lawsuit and is more likely to force you into a settlement. If we were to analogize to the world of zombies, the MLB lawyers will want to devour your grey matter.