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Nintendo Seeks To Trademarks "It's On Like Donkey Kong" 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the language-pitfall dept.
eldavojohn writes "Nintendo has requested a trademark on the phrase 'It's on like Donkey Kong.' The phrase has been used in everything from rap to television in modern culture. From the article: 'The makers of the classic video-game franchise have filed a request with the US Patent and Trademark office to trademark the pop-culture phrase, "It's on like Donkey Kong." Nintendo claims that the catchphrase "is an old, popular Nintendo phrase that has a number of possible interpretations depending on how it's used."'"

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Nintendo Seeks To Trademarks "It's On Like Donkey Kong"

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  • by schizz69 (1239560) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:16PM (#34190264) Journal
    I mean, can they really claim patent for a phrase that has millions of instances of prior use? IANAL, but surely they cant then start claiming royalties from the use of this phrase in current and future media? that would be like patenting the phrase 'how you doin'
  • Re:Up next.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jornak (1377831) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:18PM (#34190286)

    To be fair, it does include the name of a game that was copyrighted in 1981, and it was even contested and won against Universal City Studios because it was too close to King Kong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:26PM (#34190396)

    Indeed...

    My understanding of copyright/patent/trademark laws is quite weak but I've always thought that you register trademarks in a limited scope. For example, if a software company trademarks the word "Explorer", some ship manufacturer could still also trademark "Explorer" because it is clear that the Explorer (tm) ships are different from the Explorer (tm) software.

    How does that work when it comes to expressions like this one?

  • Re:Nintendo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Captain Spam (66120) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:32PM (#34190472) Homepage

    Did Nintendo themselves ever actually use the phrase? I thought it was just a pop culture reference kinda thing, never a part of the actual franchise. >_>

    I call shenanigans.

    TFA says they're using it now to promote the new donkey kong country, but it seems like they're taking a phrase that the public created that is in the public domain and are trying to claim it as theirs.

    Of course, it could also be as simple as someone in marketing deciding to use the phrase in advertisements (as a pop culture reference and nothing more), and the legal team, entirely by force of habit, attempting to trademark every last letter on the advertisement copy on a just-in-case-it-works basis.

    I'll grant that Nintendo's tried pulling trademark/copyright nonsense like this before (and were almost victims of it in the famous Universal case regarding Donkey Kong itself), but something tells me this was an overzealous lawyer deluging the trademark office with the standard-issue forest of paperwork when a new game is released, expecting the trademark office to do the fact-checking for him. Or failing that, to get a few bonus trademarks and maybe another raise if they're not paying attention.

    I say give it time to see how it pans out before we go... well, apeshit, appropriately.

  • Re:King Kong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @06:16PM (#34190904)

    It's not that unusual.
    The Star Destroyer crashed in the "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" trailer was a fan art 3D model a fan had created and then released online. The model was published under the explicit requirement that it was only to be used for non-commercial purposes.
    Of course that was ignored, just like it was ignored when another model by the same fan was used for the second Family Guy Star Wars special.
    In both cases it was easy to identify, since the surface detailing included patterns which differed from all filming models.

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @08:08PM (#34191900) Homepage Journal

    That's the bedrock of trademark law. Here's a classic example from my neck of the woods: A little organic fast-food place called "McDharma's" was sued by McDonald's. McDonald's successfully argued that visitors might be confused and think that because of the "Mc" appelation and the fact that the place served fast food, consumers would potentially be unsure as to whether it was associated with McDonald's or not. Furthermore, if McDharma's made boatloads of money by trading on this confusion, they would be running afoul of trademark law, which is designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesscritters.

    When someone uses the phrase "It's on like Donkey Kong," there isn't any confusion about what we're talking about. Has anyone else used it in commerce? I don't know of any examples where they have. So Nintendo might be able to trademark this one, as counterintuitive as it sounds. You and I can say "It's on like Donkey Kong" until the cows come home. We can write it, make fun of it, etc., just like we do with any other corporate tagline. We just can't use it to sell something else that is confusingly similar to Donkey Kong.

  • Trademark dilution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @08:11PM (#34191920) Homepage Journal

    Trademarks are divided into categories. When you register a trademark, you have to specify which category you're trademarking it in.

    But once your trademark becomes sufficiently famous, you can enforce it against other categories [wikipedia.org] because they're assumed to be merchandising [youtube.com].

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