Messing with Oscar — Academy Sues Oscarwatch.com

By John Ottaviani

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences v. Stone, No. CV07-02846 RGK CA (C.D. Cal.)(complaint filed May 1, 2007)

Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (“AMPAS”), the organization that organizes the Academy Awards, demonstrated that it still has no sense of public relations or perspective when it filed a trademark infringement law suit against Sasha Stone, the owner of the web site OscarWatch.com.

According to the Complaint (the first four pages can be found here [see update below]), the web site was initially operated as a “fan site,” but later converted to a “commercial site.” Apparently, what has the AMPAS concerned is the “recent transition of OscarWatch from a blog content only site to a commercial venture featuring paid advertising.” All this, despite a prominent and explicit disclaimer above the masthead on the OscarWatch.com web site that it is not affiliated with AMPAS. The Complaint alleges claims for violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, trademark dilution, trademark infringement, and false designation of origin under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.

If anyone has a copy of or a link to the rest of the Complaint [see update below], we would appreciate seeing it to see if there is anything else going on here. Otherwise, this sounds like the sports leagues all over again, forgetting that there are a whole host of uses of trademarks that are not infringing or dilutive. Whether these uses are called “fair use” or “not a trademark use” or something else, the fact remains that there is little, if any likelihood of confusion or dilution in this case. Moreover, it would seem that OscarWatch.com is generating advertising revenue, not from any perceived tie-in with the “Oscars” name, but from its compelling content about films and the industry that attracts loyal readers.

UPDATE: An electronic copy of the complaint.

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