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The Dark Knight Rises gets away with a “Clean Slate”

Recent court rulings declare that Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. did not infringe on a trademark for using the term “Clean Slate.” The film under question was “The Dark Knight Rises,” which was released in the United States in 2012. Apparently there are multiple references to a fictional software called the “clean slate” program. The company Fortres Grand Corp. has sold a software program under the name Clean Slate since the year 2000, and the company claims to have generated millions of dollars in revenue from sales.
Fortres Grand Corp. had claimed that Warner Bros.’s use of the “clean slate” term had infringed upon its trademark. According to the report in Bloomberg Law the court noted that “The problem for Fortres Grand Corp. was that the clean slate software in The Dark Knight Rises only exists in the fictional world of Gotham; it does not exist in reality.”  Here the court looked to the actual product offered to a consumer, as trademarks function to avoid consumer confusion. Warner Bros. was selling a movie, the alleged infringement was over a fictional software in that movie. In analyzing the potential for consumer confusion in this case, one must compare Fortres Grand’s “Clean Slate” software to Warner Bros.’ real product –The Dark Knight Rises Movie. The court, in declaring there was no infringement, stated “[T]here is simply no plausible claim that consumers will make ‘mistaken purchasing decisions’ about the ‘tangible product’ being sold in the marketplace: no one looking for Fortres Grand’s software is likely to mistakenly buy a ticket to The Dark Knight Rises.”
To read more about the details of this interesting case, visit Bloomberg Law online here.