Barack and Michelle Obama are set to unveil their Netflix Original films and TV shows—as soon as they find a way out of a nasty trademark battle.
Former first couple Barack and Michelle Obama recently signed a lucrative deal with online streaming giant Netflix to produce numerous groundbreaking films and television series. However, it seems they may have hit a roadblock. Their production company, Higher Ground Productions, may not receive a licensed trademark from the United States Trademark Office, as per The Hollywood Reporter. This is mainly because an earlier company, called Higher Ground Enterprises, has already reserved the trademark for media production services. While the two companies are involved in vastly different areas of business, it appears that the Obamas may have in a desperate attempt to formalize their firm engaged in some "deplorable behavior," according to the owner of Higher Ground Enterprises' lawyer, Larry Zerner.
The Obamas were inspired by Stevie Wonder, whose hit song "Higher Ground" was a chart-topper in 1973. Thus, they chose the iconic name for their production company. Moreover, many may remember former First Lady Michelle Obama's unforgettable quote at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, "When they go low, we go high." Apparently, going high includes indulging in last-ditch efforts in a nasty trademark dispute.
Higher Ground Enterprises, the company the Obamas are currently waging the trademark war with, is an e-book publishing company run by a Hanisya Massey. Her firm's trademark is in Class 41, which comprises entertainment services—the former Presidential couple's area of business. Higher Ground Enterprises has been using the trademark since 2008. On this account, the United States Patent and Trademark Office denied Higher Ground Productions their requested trademark on April 10.
At first, the Obamas and their lawyer attempted to argue that consumers would be able to distinguish the two companies from each other. "[T]he consumers of 'media production services' covered by the Application are likely to be highly sophisticated," a letter submitted on their behalf read. "Media production services are generally offered not to individual consumers but to commercial entities and professionals in their field. Indeed, The applicant has entered a deal with Netflix in connection with its media production services. Such customers, whether multi-billion-dollar media companies or smaller commercial entities in need of media production services, will exercise the height of care in selecting a media production company and are highly unlikely to be confused by a photographer or e-book publisher — particularly when the other party uses a distinguishable mark."
However, that did not convince the Trademark Office. They advised, "The overriding concern is not only to prevent buyer confusion as to the source of the goods and/or services, but to protect the registrant from adverse commercial impact due to use of a similar mark by a newcomer." In response to this, "newcomers" Michelle and Barack Obama argued that "Higher Ground Enterprises" wasn't actually being utilized at the time of its 2016 registration. While the e-book publisher's digital trail is thin, some early corporation filings do exist according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Expectedly, Zerner is rather infuriated. "This is really deplorable behavior," the attorney declared in an interview with Fox News. "I hope that the Obamas realize that these actions are not consistent with the values they preach and that they instruct their attorneys to immediately dismiss the petition... Instead of simply picking another name, the Obamas' lawyers have now filed a meritless petition to cancel my client's trademark so they can take it for themselves." Allegedly, the Obamas knew the name was already registered under a trademark for a year. Only time will tell if the former Presidential couple will be able to use their chosen name.