Disney Trademarks “SEAL Team Six”

It seems that Disney has trademarked the phrase “SEAL Team Six”:

In a perfect example of a big media company looking to capitalize on current events, The Walt Disney Company has trademarked “Seal Team 6,” which also happens to be the name of the elite special forces team that killed Osama Bin Laden.

The trademark applications came on May 3rd, two days after the operation that killed Bin Laden… and two days after “Seal Team 6″  was included in thousands of news articles and TV programs focusing on the operation.

Disney’s trademark applications for “Seal Team 6″ cover clothing, footwear, headwear, toys, games and “entertainment and education services,” among other things.

You can read the actual applications here, here and here.

Inevitable, I suppose, but it strikes me as odd and a little inappropriate that a media company would be allowed to appropriate the name of an American military unit for their own exploitation.

Update: As Dodd Harris notes in a comment, it appears that “SEAL Team Six” was previously owned by another company:

The Sentinel said there actually is precedent for a civilian company obtaining the trademark rights to a Navy SEAL Team. A company called NovaLogic had the rights to SEAL Team 6 previously but abandoned it in 2006.

Photo via Military Times


FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Military Affairs, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    I would be shocked if this survives a court challenge. I don’t think you can trademark a governmental title. If it does, I’m going to trademark “US Army” and sue the Pentagon lol

  2. James Joyner says:

    Technically, they haven’t been “SEAL Team Six” in years; they were renamed “Naval Special Warfare Development Group” in 1987 and are informally known as DEVGRU. Supposedly, they’ve recently been re-designated something else but the new name is classified.

    My guess is that Disney could get away with trademarking it as a movie title or for video games but not for general use. But IANAL.

  3. @James,

    Okay that makes sense then,. Generally, the PTO wouldn’t grant an application for a name that was already in use, either in the private sphere or government. Of course my knowledge of the exceptions to those rules and how they’re applied today ended the day I walked out of my Trademark and Copyright Law exam in 1993 so in this case I’m not much more of an expert than the layman.

    I just hope this doesn’t mean we’re going to see a movie where Donald Duck kills bin Laden 😀

  4. Justin says:

    It’s also a little odd that Disney, a name that is synonymous with family entertainment, would trademark a name that represents death and destruction…

  5. Justin,

    Remember that Disney is now a media conglomerate that includes more than just the cartoons/family entertainment we grew up with.

  6. Dean says:

    There is precedent for this type of trademark. Shortly after the launch of stealth technology, Leo Stoller, a litigator in Chicago, filed and received trademark protection for the term stealth. This mark covered a number of uses from baseball bats to entertainment. Easton bats, for a period of time, even paid a licensing fee for the term. In addition, Stoller sued Columbia Pictures for using Stealth for the title of that “classic” Sly Stallone movie. The studio countersued and eventually won. In the end, Stoller was deemed a “vexatious litigant” and lost rights to the term.

    However, it is not unlikely that the US Patent and Trademark Office will grant rights to the term to Disney. The USPTO has been making it very difficult for those with real intellectual property claims in the last few years by granting rights on very flimsy claims. This would seem to be a very flimsy claim as Disney had nothing to do with the term’s creation. It would seem there should be no claim and any usage would fall under “fair use.”

    From a PR perspective, I’m not sure how it will play in the court of public opinion to have a large corporation take advantage of the brave efforts of our special forces. I have no issue with Disney using the term. Staking claim to it, as if they created, feels like stealing.

  7. Jay Tea says:

    Disney also owns Marvel Comics now, so there’s your dose of violence…

    And I wonder if Richard Marcinko might have an interest in the ownership of that term…

    J.

  8. Dodd says:

    Actually, the precedent for this trademark is considerably more specific: A company called NovaLogic had the rights to SEAL Team 6 previously but abandoned it in 2006.

  9. Southern Hoosier says:

    James Joyner says: Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 11:51

    Technically, they haven’t been “SEAL Team Six” in years; they were renamed “Naval Special Warfare Development Group” in 1987 and are informally known as DEVGRU. Supposedly,

    In 1987, a new unit was formed, given the official title of “Naval Special Warfare Development Group” (abbreviated to NAVSPECWARDEVGRU, or DEVGRU) after SEAL Team Six was dissolved. Reasons for the disbanding are varied, but the name SEAL Team Six is often used in reference to DEVGRU because of their similarities as a maritime counter-terrorism unit

    http://goo.gl/u45y

  10. Southern Hoosier says:

    Justin says: Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 12:10

    It’s also a little odd that Disney, a name that is synonymous with family entertainment, would trademark a name that represents death and destruction…

    Disney Explains Marketing Research Used to Study Boys

    The purpose of this research? To create new media content and merchandise for this so-called “lost” market. Disney is afraid that it has focused too much on its girl viewers, and is missing out on the approximately $50 billion in spending that boys in this age range influence each year.

    http://goo.gl/RQfg5

  11. Lisa Merriam says:

    Funny SEAL Team 6 might be trademarked, but DEVGRU (the real name of the unit) is not: http://merriamassociates.com/2011/05/disney-trademarks-seal-team-6-but-not-devgru-or-delta-force/

  12. Ted says:

    Oooooh….. if an infringed party does dispute this trademark, do you really want to find out they don’t send lawyers around to sort it out?

  13. JKB says:

    Seal Team 6 – Bambi’s Revenge

    Seal Team 6 – Who You Calling Old Yeller?

    Seal Team 6 – Military School Musical

    They need the name, it’s a brave new world and their old products need some updating.