Parody, Publishing, Startups

A recent client inquiry caused me to read again this excerpt from a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit:

llbeandrake“Our reluctance to apply the anti-dilution statute (Maine trademark law) to the instant case also stems from a recognition of the vital importance of parody. Although, as we have noted, parody is often offensive, it is nevertheless “deserving of substantial freedom — both as entertainment and as a form of social and literary criticism.” Berlin v. E.C. Publications, Inc., 329 F.2d 541 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 822, 85 S.Ct. 46, 13 L.Ed.2d 33 (1964). Accord Fisher v. Dees, 794 F.2d 432, 437-38 (9th Cir.1986)(“`Destructive’ parodies play an important role in social and literary criticism and thus merit protection even though they may discourage or discredit an original author.”);Pring v. Penthouse International, Ltd., 695 F.2d 438 (10th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 462 U.S. 1132, 103 S.Ct. 3112, 77 L.Ed.2d 1367 (1983) (defendants’ bawdy “spoof” and “ridicule” of Miss America pageant entitled to full range of first amendment protection); Groucho Marx Productions v. Day and Night Co., 689 F.2d 317, 319 n. 2 (2d Cir.1982) (noting “the broad scope permitted parody in first First Amendment law.”); Elsmere Music v. National Broadcasting Co., 623 F.2d 252, 253 (2d Cir.1980)(“in today’s world of unrelieved solemnity, copyright law should be hospitable to the humor of parody….”). It would be anomalous to diminish the protection afforded parody solely because a parodist chooses a famous trade name, rather than a famous personality, author or creative work, as its object.[5]”

L.L. BEAN, INC. v. DRAKE PUBLISHERS, INC., 811 F.2d 26 (1987) (1st. Cir 1987)