It shouldn’t be news to anyone who reads Techdirt that HBO is rather well known for being overly protective of its intellectual property. Still, there are times when even those we know to be prickly on these matters pick a fight that has me scratching my head. One such example is the recent news that HBO decided to challenge the trademark registration of an itty bitty regional online television streaming group in Australia.
WaggaWagga.TV, an online live streaming service catering primarily to the people of the southern NSW town, was threatened with a trademark challenge with HBO’s lawyers claiming its tagline “It’s not TV. It’s dot TV” was too similar to HBO’s “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”
“We run an online TV station with local based content where the target audience is Wagga Wagga which has about 66,000 people in it,” said Adam Drummond who heads the two person WaggaWagga.TV operation. “I was bit horrified when I got the letter in the post and it was from the Sydney lawyer representing HBO. At first I thought it was a gag.”
But, of course, it wasn’t a gag. This regional streaming service, offered to a local area and featuring such content as local news, amateur theatrical productions, and the like, came up with a logo and tagline that is about as similar to HBO’s as a fine bottle of wine is to my left foot. The imagery, the logos, the fonts…none of it is similar. The only likeness is the phrase “It’s not TV.” That’s it.
Chance of confusion? Yeah, no chance at all. But that didn’t stop HBO from opposing the trademark under the notion that there was too much similarity and consumers might be confused. This is normally the part of the story where the smaller entity would become frightened and bow to whatever the wishes of HBO might be, suffering any consequences of doing so in silence. Drummond, however, chose not to back down but instead chose to engage with HBO to try to convince them that there was no threat or possibility of confusion here. Turns out this actually worked.
The actor, turned real estate agent, traded a series of legal letters with HBO’s lawyers before being able to convince them not to contest the trademark. However HBO’s lawyers are reserving their rights.
“It does feel like a win. We are doing 14 hour days there are only two of us,” he said. “There is one production person and then there is myself and between us we are scripting everything, producing, shooting, editing and on top of that doing sales as well.”
Which is all well and good, but did HBO really need someone to explain to them that a tiny regional streamer with a barely similar tagline wasn’t a fight worth picking?