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Artist depicts 126 ACME Corp. products on giant poster

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ACME iron bird seedWired reports that Chicago artist Rob Loukotka has created an advertising poster for fictional ACME Corp. that shows 126 of its products that Wile E. Coyote has ordered in his attempts to catch the Road Runner, including the jet-propelled tennis shoes, rocket-powered pogo stick, and tornado seeds.

The giant poster (24” x 36”, or 2’ x 3’) is not quite ready to order. Loukotka has a Kickstarter project to raise $3,000 to print it. Considering that the project is still going and that he has $79,110 pledged so far, this looks assured. Loukotka is asking for $30 pledges; each pledger will receive the poster. Non-pledgers can buy it for $30 after it is printed; $40 outside the U.S

Loukotka has other posters, but this is the only one with an anthropomorphic tie-in.

Update (21 Dec): The Cartoon Brew reports that Warner Bros. trademarked the ACME logo, too, though Loukotka was careful not to mention WB or Wile E. Coyote on the poster. [Ed.: The USPTO cancelled the trademark in 2010 as they failed to file a 10-year renewal.]

Loukotka is arguing that his poster is Fair Use: it is a one-time-only, limited-edition item that is original art, does not show any WB character, cannot be mistaken for a WB product, and does not divert money from WB. Loukotka's argument shows precedent in the artwork displayed legally - and sold -- in such exhibits as "Gag Me With a Toon 4" at the WWA Gallery in Culver City, California this past March-April. But those were one-of-a-kind paintings, not limited-edition prints. Does that make a legal difference? Will this be decided short of going to court? Stay tooned.

A prior version of this piece incorrectly claimed that the Cartoon Brew had reported Warner Bros. had charged Loukotka with trademark infringement.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Warner Bros. is on shaky ground here. Not only has their registered trademark lapsed, it was only ever valid for clothing. Trademarks are pretty specific. I have registered WikiFur in class 41, so nobody else can start up a informational service named WikiFur. However if someone starts baking WikiFur cakes (class 30), I have a harder time proving infringement.

Arguably what matters most is whether people think the poster was created by Warner Bros. Trademark registration merely acts as notification, which results in a prima facie evidence of trademark infringement if it's used by someone else.

Edit: Well, it turns out they haven't filed a case anyway - yet - so this is all somewhat moot.

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I don't think it's as shaky as you think. ACME is well-known so it would tie back to Warner Bros. and this is a profit-making poster. I think it's quite easy for someone to think it's official and for Warner Bros. to argue it would be losing them business if they make their own posters with their ideas.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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They have to prove that in a court of law, though, rather than relying on the registered trademark. That could be more than it'd be worth, though they'd probably do it anyway out of principle.

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As has been said, acme is a generic word and its use as a merchandising brand long predates Warner Bros. Currently there are an ACME restaurant in NYC, a nationwide ACME supermarket chain, an Acme Furniture Company with outlets from NYC to San Francisco, an Acme Oyster House in New Orleans, an Acme Electric Corp. in Lumberton, North Carolina and Monterrey, Mexico, an Acme Bread Company in San Francisco & Berkeley … lots of Acmes. The public may have a momentary knee-jerk association with the name of ACME and Warner Bros., but it would be hard to prove that the general public would assume that an ACME product MUST come from Warner Bros.

Not to mention the Annie Award-winning Acme Filmworks animation studio in Hollywood, which probably is a Coyote-&-Road Runner reference.

http://www.acmefilmworks.com/contact_us.html

http://www.awn.com/mag/issue2.2/articles/gardner2.2.html

Fred Patten

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I think you building a straw man the problem is not the the word Acme her is lifting the illustrations from that were part of a wanner brothers cartoon. Rob cant use the likeness of any Warner bother cartoon. Rob is ether grossly mis informed or charlatan, think he can weasel words his way out of this. He doesn't have to mention the name but we clearly refers to Road runner cartoons.

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About the author

Fred (Fred Patten)read storiescontact (login required)

a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics