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Counselor at Law, P.C.
Business & Employment Law Attorney

Copyright use an issue in new blockbuster film ‘Flight’

Usually a company will pay big money to have their product or brand name displayed in a big Hollywood movie. Often these copyright licensing contracts depict how and where a brand will be displayed in a movie, but two companies with major brand names many Denver residents may be familiar with are crying foul over the use of their products in the new movie starring Denzel Washington called ‘Flight.’ The problem appears to stem from the fact Mr. Washington plays a functioning alcoholic pilot and throughout the movie various brands of beer and spirits are portrayed being consumed by the star, which has some companies up in arms.

Earlier this month, Anheuser-Busch asked Paramount Pictures, the makers of the film to remove or somehow obscure the Budweiser brand and logo from the film. Part of the company’s concern over the portrayal of their brand in the film may be due to a scene in which the star is seen drinking a can of Budweiser while driving. Several different brands of alcohol are seen in the movie and the main character is seen drinking vodka throughout the entirety of the film. The distributors of the Stolichnaya brand of vodka, William Grant & Sons have also voiced concerns over its brand’s portrayal in the film.

In a written statement by the vice president of Budweiser, it said the company was not contacted for permission to use its brand by the makers of the film or the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis. The company has asked the film’s makers to remove all reference to its trademarks in the digital versions of the movie and future adaptations, including cable and satellite On Demand, DVDs and online streaming versions. It also wants prints that have yet to be sent to theaters to have the brand’s images removed or obscured.

A brand name or trademark can be the lifeblood of a company and copyright trademark laws protect licensed brands from having their brands used without its permission. Trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits abound and oftentimes a cease and desist letter will achieve the desired results if a company feels its rights have been infringed. But that may not apply in this case as a number of brands are portrayed throughout the film and previous court rulings state the film is unlikely to have violated the law. The reason is that brand named products may appear in a film as long as they provide some ‘artistic relevance.’

Source: USA Today, “Budweiser seeks removal from ‘Flight’,” Anthony McCartney, Nov. 5, 2012

Our Denver law firm provides an array of business law services, including helping companies protect their brands, trademarks and copyrights with business litigation services.

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