Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Trademark


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Trademark

by Susan Basko, esq. 

I answered this question on Quora: Is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’s character copyrighted?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a song, a movie, etc. and these have Copyright protections. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is also a trademark registered by Trust of the author, Robert L. May, for use on books, films, games, toys, etc. It has been registered since the 1980s. 

The specimens on file with the U.S. Trademark Office show a Viewmaster slide show of Rudolph, a story book signed by the author, a coloring book, an RCA Victor phonograph record, and a pair of bedroom slippers with a reindeer head. It is safe to say the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is as legally well-protected as Mickey Mouse. Subsequent attempts by others to register trademarks on any Rudolph Reindeer-related goods or services have all failed and gone dead. 

The registration information is shown below, and above is a photo of the specimen provided of the coloring book and slippers.

  Word Mark


Goods and Services

IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Filmstrips With [ and Without ] Sound Tracks. FIRST USE: 19470000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19470000

IC 016. US 037 038. G & S: Coloring and Activity Books. FIRST USE: 19470000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19470000

IC 028. US 022 023 038 050. G & S: [ Equipment Sold as a Unit for Playing Board and Dart Board Games, ] Stuffed Toys, Christmas Tree Ornaments, Hand Puppets and Jigsaw Puzzles. FIRST USE: 19470000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19470000

Mark Drawing Code


Serial Number


Filing Date

July 3, 1980

Current Basis


Original Filing Basis


Published for Opposition

October 9, 1984

Registration Number


Registration Date

December 18, 1984


(REGISTRANT) State National Bank of Evanston, co-trustees of Robert L. May, trust under will banking association UNITED STATES Orrington at Davis Evanston ILLINOIS 60204


Assignment Recorded


Type of Mark




Affidavit Text

SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20150110.


2ND RENEWAL 20150110

Live/Dead Indicator


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Brat Pack


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Brat Pack
by Susan Basko, esq.

You've probably seen the marvelous video above, which features now U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez back when she was a student at Boston University.  In the video credits, she is listed as "Sandy Ocasio-Cortez."  What are the origins of this great little video?

Back in 2009, the French group named Phoenix released a catchy pop tune called Lisztomania.  The term, Lisztomania, refers to the freaky fandom that was rained down upon the composer Franz LIszt in Berlin in the 1840s.  Liszt was like the Justin Timberlake or Shawn Mendes of his day. 

Someone using the name AvoidantConsumer created a perfect dance video using the Lisztomania song from Phoenix with footage from the 1985 John Hughes movie, The Breakfast Club.  "It stars Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as teenagers from different high school cliques who spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian assistant principal (Paul Gleason)."

The actors that starred in The Breakfast Club and other teen movies of the 1980s became known as The Brat Pack.  John Hughes made a series of movies depicting the lives of white teens from Chicago's wealthy northern suburbs.  Those movies included The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  The John Hughes movies followed in the footsteps of the 1983 movie Risky Business by Paul Brickman, which also depicted lives of wealthy white Chicago suburban teens, and Class, directed by Lewis John Carlino, which did the same.  In the mid-1980s, it became a movie genre unto itself to tell stories of mischievous wealthy white teens challenging authority in suburban Chicago.  Their big freedom escapades often involved driving from their sleepy suburbs into downtown Chicago.

This rich Chicago teen genre and its tropes got turned on its head by 1992's Wayne's World, directed by Penelope Spheeris.  Wayne's World depicted ersatz Chicago suburban "teens," played by the older Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth.  Wayne and Garth did not drive fancy sports cars; they had a 1976 AMC Pacer, a funny little car with huge windows that looked like a circus clown car.  Wayne and Garth were not pondering what to wear to the prom; they were busy making Public Access TV shows down in the paneled-and-brown-plaid finished basement.

The AvoidantConsumer video (below) was imitated by young people in Brooklyn, and then in Boston, and soon in cities all over the world.  You can see in the video below that the role that AvoidantConsumer created for Ally Sheedy was later imitated and reprised by Sandy Ocasio-Cortez in the Boston remake.  Allegedly, AvoidantConsumer's Youtube channel was shut down for Copyright infringement claimed against the video.  That person has resurrected on Youtube as AvoidantConsumer3. 

The first spin-off video was made on a rooftop in Brooklyn in New York City.  Notice it is pretty faithful to the AvoidantConsumer - Brat Pack original.

Rome, Italy, came up with a nice mashup of the video:

Michigan State University did a decent rendition:

This group from Moscow, Russia, does a pretty good job once they get up to the rooftop.  They capture the spirit of the original, even if they lack a brunette dancer for the Ally Sheedy part.

These folks in Rio de Janeiro look like they are having a lot of fun against the gorgeous scenery.

Students at University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, get points for a diverse cast and good dance moves.


These folks in Vienna, Austria, posed against the scenic local backdrops to make their Lisztomania mashup.

A family in Curitiba, Brazil, cast the mom, dad, and kids in the roles.  They made the video as a thank-you to Curitiba, which they enjoyed visiting.

These people in Versailles, France, look like they are having a lot of fun.  While they did not imitate the original Brat Pack video, they made up for it in energy and fun.

A shop in Paris, France, became the scene for this remake. Not everyone has a rooftop where they can go to dance around.

Dancers in Taipei, Taiwan, performed their mashup on a city train and on a big staircase. They stayed true to the energy and spirit of the original video, if not to its specifics.

San Francisco put forth an excellent version, with a producer, director, and choreographer listed in the credits.   The video is cast with beautiful young women and men, as one would expect in San Francisco. 

This group of dancers in Rimini, Italy, made good use of the charming local scenery.

Lecce, Italy, cast a beautiful brunette woman in the Ally Sheedy role.  The whole cast looks like they are having lots of fun.  

The Israeli version was performed in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Jaffa.  Parts of it were shot using what looks like a big orange Alexander Calder sculpture as a backdrop.  They do some couples dancing as well as some folk dancing moves. 

And finally, this ambitious group from Amsterdam, Netherlands, bring their dancing energy to a scene of graffiti-painted rocks and a water taxi boat.

If I missed any videos, please email me the link if you want me to add it onto this post. 

 Happy Dancing!

Broccolini Trademark


Broccolini Trademark
by Susan Basko, esq.

A great use of trademark is to create a new product out of an existing one.  Mann Packing Company has done just that by creating the name, "Broccolini," and registering a trademark on it.  

Broccolini is actually a Japanese vegetable called, "Asparation."  Mann Packing Company got a packing and distribution contract with the Japanese company, but needed a better name than "Asparation," which sounds more like a self-help group.  Mann's came up with the name, Broccolini, and to protect it, registered a trademark on that name.  The trademark application was filed in 1998 and the trademark certificate was granted in 2000.  It is a word mark on the word, "Broccolini," and it is for the goods of  Fresh Vegetables.  

You might be wondering if a patent can be registered on a vegetable.  A patent is protection for an invention.  According to this great little article,, a vegetable can only be patented if it is created by breeding or grafting.  Otherwise, plants might be protected in the U.S. by the Plant Variety Protection Act.  

If you enjoy broccolini, you might wonder what is the difference between broccolini, broccoli rabe, and Chinese broccoli.   According to, Chinese broccoli is a leafy vegetable without flowers.  It is served often in Thai restaurants in pad see ew, a dish with thick noodles, Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, a protein, and a savory dark sauce.  Broccoli rabe, which is often called rapini, looks like broccoli, in that it has flowers, but it also has many leaves.  Rapini is one of my favorite vegetables because it sautes up nicely. I use rapini in Asian dishes.  Broccolini is a hybrid between broccoli and Chinese broccoli that was invented in 1993.  Broccolini has tender stems that can be sliced and sauteed, stir-fried, or eaten raw in a salad.  Broccolini is one of most favorite vegetables, for its beauty as well as its versatility.

Trademark can be a rather magical thing.  With Broccolini, trademark has been used by Mann's to create a highly marketable product, as well as to create a product sold exclusively by Mann Packing Company.  Depending on the contract with the Japanese inventor of Asparation, other U.S. companies might be able to sell Asparation, but none of them would be able to use the Broccolini name, unless they license use of the name from Mann's.  

U.S. Trademarks can continue to exist as long as the trademark owner makes the proper renewals and as long as the trademark is still being used in commerce.  That makes trademarks different from U.S. patents, which only last 20 years.  Thus, Mann Packing Company can have a corner on the Broccolini market indefinitely.  

I think of Mann's as an excellent, innovative company that has done great service in creating and packaging highly desirable fresh vegetables.  Mann's sells bags of fresh vegetable mixes where the vegetables have already been cut up into their usable parts, washed, and sorted.  For example, Mann's sells such things as bags filled with broccoli and cauliflower florets.  The company also sells bags of vegetables ready to stir fry, such as a mix of broccoli, carrots, and pea pods. 

You can truly appreciate this if you are old enough to remember back when, if you wanted a few florets of cauliflower, you had to buy an entire softball-sized head of cauliflower, soak it, wash it, trim away the leaves and stump, and cut a few florets to use.  In most cases, a good deal of it went to waste because an entire head of cauliflower is way too much for most people to use before it goes brown.  Now, Mann's allows one head of cauliflower to be shared between many households.  Every bit of that cauliflower head is used, with much of what would have gone to waste being turned into products such as cole slaw and crunch salad mixes, "cauliflower rice," and cauliflower pizza crust.  That cauliflower rice is good as a base for any dish, just like brown rice and is a great addition to a stir fry.  People who don't want to eat flour because of gluten sensitivity or other reasons can use cauliflower rice as a pizza crust.

With all these fantastic, easy-to-use fresh vegetable products, everyone should be eating and enjoying plenty of nutritious vegetables.  

Other companies have created trademarks for vegetables.  For example, Jolly Green Giant has a trademark on the word "Niblets" for canned corn.  Mann's itself has 50 live trademarks registered on various vegetable product.  You can see these listed below.

Serial NumberReg. NumberWord MarkCheck StatusLive/Dead
20872593215510811SINGLE CUTTSDRLIVE


Wixen v Triller: Music Apps Need to License the Songs


Wixen v Triller: Music Apps Need to License the Songs

by Susan Basko, esq.

Wixen Music Publishing has filed a lawsuit against the Triller app claiming the songs Wixen controls have been infringed by Triller.  Triller is an app run by CEO Mike Lu.  The app allows users to create 15-second music videos and share them with friends and contacts within the app.  The app makes many songs availavle to the users for use in the videos. Some of those songs are controlled by Wixen.  Triller allows its users to choose a song, choose which 15 seconds of the song to use, and to make a little music video.  

Wixen is run by Randall Wixen, who is one of my personal longstanding music heroes.  Randall Wixen came into music publishing as an accountant who would collect the publishing money owed and take a percentage.  This differs from the traditional music publisher, which usually takes 50% of the publishing rights and notoriously does almost nothing to earn it.  At the time Wixen started, his service was groundbreaking and a cure for the traditional music publishing grab that robbed so many songwriters.  This is how and why Wixen has an impressive A-list of songwriters who sign with the company to have their money collected at an affordable price.  These are veteran songwriters who do not need any "help" getting their songs out there.  The Wixen Publishing Client List of over 2,000 songwriting music artists includes Tom Petty, Rage Against the Machine, Santana, Andrew Bird, Neil Young, The Doobie Brothers, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, The Doors, The Beach Boys, Steven Stills, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  

By US Copyright law, use of a song in a motion picture, including a music video, requires a Synch license from the publisher, as well as a Master's Use license from the owner of the copyright on the Sound Recording, which is usually a record label.  This lawsuit does not address the Master's Use license, because Wixen is a music publisher, not a record label.  I don't know if the song recordings used by Triller are original recordings owned or controlled by record labels, or if perhaps Triller has had sound-alike recordings made.  In either case, this particular lawsuit only deals with the publishing, by which is meant the songwriting, not the sound recording.   Songs have two copyrights -- the songwriting and the sound recording.  The songwriting copyright is usually controlled by a publisher, and will remain constant no matter which musicians have created a particular recording.  If Triller has used sound recordings without getting a Master's Use license, then it is possible there will be other lawsuits filed by record labels.  

Over the years, I have watched a good number of music start-ups fail and have to close up, and most of those were at least in part due to their lack of understanding of music law and /or their failure to get proper licensing for the music.  Music law is complex and most people do not understand it.  Further, music licensing is a gigantic, expensive pain.  

What makes music licensing such a pain?  First, there is no real central database that lists who controls what songs.  There are a mishmash of databases and they can be helpful, but there is no centralized registry.  Second, a song may have multiple songwriters, and each one may be represented by a different publisher, and by different publishers in different nations.  Third, since songwriters can move their songs from publisher to publisher, what is true one year may not be true the next.  Further, publisher merge, get bought up, go out of business, etc.  Songwriters die and their estates take over, and often the legal status of the publishing will be tenuous at best.  

So, let's say you have discovered which publishers control the songwriting / publishing rights to a song.  Let's say you eagerly want to get a synch license to use the song in a video.  Well, the publisher can say yes or say no, and they can even say nothing if they see you request as unworthy of a response.  Publishers always want to know a lot of information before granting a synch license, including which part of the song will be used in the motion picture, what the film or video will be like, who is producing and directing and starring in it, where it will be shown, how long it will be shown there, how many people will see it, and what the overall budget is and what the music budget is.  If the publisher grants the synch license, it can set any price and any terms it likes.  

With all that, how does an app negotiate to get synch licenses for thousands of songs, to be used in any way that the app users wish to use them?  As you see in this lawsuit, the easiest way is to skip getting synch licenses and deal with the consequences as they come.  Maybe that's not such a great idea.  Maybe music publishers should wake up and make themselves and the music they represent more available and affordable.  Use of a song in a video, even an amateur or fan music video, is good free publicity for the song -- usually, not always.  Sometimes a video can harm a song or do things the songwriter does not like, and that is one of the many reasons why publishers require information about the video before granting a synch license.  

Bulk licensing is possible, but a publisher rarely wants to deal with a music start-up company, with its finances as shaky as its reputation and future.  This is why, it seems, many music tech start-ups choose to ignore the complexities of music licensing.  The Wixen lawsuit complaint states, "The President and CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), a trade group to which Wixen belongs, criticized Triller for not fully licensing NMPA members’ songs, stating that “Triller’s popularity is largely based on music. It boasts ‘millions of songs at your fingertips,’ however many of those songs have not been properly licensed. The pattern of tech platforms asking for forgiveness instead of permission to use songwriter’s work must stop. Triller must legitimize its business by properly licensing all music on its platform.” 

However, there are reasons that "tech platform" ask "for forgiveness instead of permission to use (a) songwriter's work." Those reasons, I think are lack of understanding of music law, lack of access to a music lawyer, lack of financial resources in the start-up phase of a company, and complexity in getting synch licensing and Master's Use licensing.

Wixen's complaint hopes to dispel any notion that Triller was unable to afford synch licensing by alleging that Triller has been lavishing money on its social media influencers.  "However, rather than pay Wixen and the songwriters Wixen represents to use their Works, Triller pays “social influencers” substantial sums of money and provides them with Rolls Royces, mansions (with housekeeping), weekly sushi dinners at Nobu, and, in at least one instance, a helicopter."  This is a no-go with Randall Wixen, who has built his business on being impeccably fair with his roster of songwriters.  

Wixen Publishing's website has a page called "How to Clear Music."  It includes a list of "How Not to Clear Music," which includes the admonition, "Don't chat up the receptionist."  None of this list (below) sounds like Wixen is open to negotiating with a music start-up for synch licensing of its songs en mass.  To the contrary, this all sounds intimidating, foreboding, and expensive.  Nothing says a music publisher has to be open to working with music apps or social media.  But, those platforms are the present and future of music, so it would seem a good idea to get on board with the things that music lovers enjoy today.  Just sayin', it might be more productive than filing lawsuits after the fact.  

This music street runs both ways and there is enough fault going around for everyone to take their share.  A songwriter and their music publisher do legally own the rights and control what can be done with their songs.  But it is the music fans who have made the songs what they have become.  Rejecting tech and social media platforms or making it nearly impossible for them to use music is the historical equivalent to if songwriters had refused to allow their songs to be played on a Victrola or record player, or on the new-fangled radio.  Music is being used in new ways, giving the fans the ability to create their own video media.  Will music publishers remain in their castle towers surrounded by a moat -- and don't chat up the receptionist on the way into the castle, please -- or will they get with the times? This remains to be seen.  

A lawsuit such as this one filed by Wixen is enough to financially kill off a platform like Triller.  I have seen many a music start-up killed off by the expense and demands of music licensing.  Will Triller and Wixen be able to work out a deal?  We'll all find out.  


How to Clear Music

  • Allow adequate time to obtain approvals.  In many instances, we have to track down a touring songwriter for approval of your request, and this can take time.
  • Provide us with complete written details of the proposed use.  For books, TV shows and films, we require plot descriptions and text pages showing the in-context placement of the proposed use.
  • Send your completed request via mail, FAX or by email to
  • Any proposed changes to a quote or license must be requested in writing.

How NOT to Clear Music

  • Don’t tell us how low your budget is.  If your request is approved, we will quote based on our perception of the fair market value, not your budget.
  • Don’t expect us to educate you in the clearance process or copyright law because you’ve never cleared anything before.  You should know what you’re doing before you contact us.  Consider hiring a clearance professional.
  • Don’t expect approval on a request just because you’re a bona fide good-deed-doing charity.  Many of our clients get dozens of charitable requests per week and they cannot all be approved.
  • Don’t ever send us a letter stating that if you don’t hear from us, you will assume that the use has been approved.  This will prompt an immediate and permanent denial.
  • Don’t change our forms of the terms of a license unless you have sent us a written request asking to do so, and we have approved such request.
  • Don’t chat up our receptionist.  It has zero bearing on whether your request will be approved or the speed in which your request will be considered.
  • No means no.  It is not an invitation to appeal a decision or send further information that you meant to send in your original request.
  • Don’t call our client or his or her manager or attorney directly to appeal their decision after receiving a response from this office.

Wixen v Triller Copyright i... by SusanBasko

Wixen Complaint List of Son... by SusanBasko