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11 November 2019
Cartoon characters may enjoy protection under trademark and copyright law in Turkey. This article focuses on the protection provided to such characters by trademark law.
Trademark protection for cartoon characters is not specifically set out in the Industrial Property Code 6769 (the IP Code), which came into force on 10 January 2017. Since there is no special provision in the IP Code regarding the registration of cartoon characters as trademarks or the protection thereof, the principles pertaining to the registration and protection of other signs apply.
The key to trademark protection is that a mark is protectable only to the extent that it is capable of being represented graphically and distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of another.
Trademark protection of cartoon characters (ie, their physical appearance, names, graphical representations and other qualities) is the same as that for any other mark. In that context, trademark protection is granted to not only registered marks, but also unregistered marks, with the following exceptions:
The above opposition grounds can occur individually or cumulatively based on the merits of each case. The Patent and Trademark Office routinely refuses trademark applications that include graphics or other elements of copyrighted cartoon characters.
To this effect, trademark applications comprising the graphic representation, physical appearance or names of copyrighted characters or their catchphrases (eg, Superman, Mickey Mouse, Willy Wonka, Lucifer, Gandalf, Gimli, the Flintstones and Spiderman) have all been rejected following opposition by the rights holder irrespective of whether their marks were registered in Turkey.
Notably, distinctive components and qualities of cartoon characters other than their appearance and name are now being considered by the Patent and Trademark Office, including catchphrases and concepts associated with said characters.
In a recent case, the Patent and Trademark Office rejected a trademark application (2018/91404) as the opponent owned the copyright for the TV series Friends, in which the characters spend most of their time in a coffee shop called Central Perk (Figure 1).
Both the denomination 'Central Perk' and the graphic of the two cups of coffee used in the application were the same as the concept and logo used in the TV series.
In another case, the Higher Council examined an objection to a trademark application (2018/31465) based on the grounds that it breached the opponent's copyright in the expression 'Bazinga', as used in the TV series The Big Bang Theory (Figure 2).
The Higher Council refused the application as:
In another case, the Higher Council approved the refusal of a trademark application (2018/07759) on opposition from the rights holder of the Batman character (including rights over the name Gotham City). The Higher Council ruled that the opponent enjoyed copyright protection for the name Gotham and that the trademark application comprising said name and the silhouette of a city recalled the opponent's copyrightable term (Figure 3).
The physical appearance, name, expressions used and other distinctive components relating to or associated with copyrighted works or characters may enjoy trademark protection in Turkey irrespective of whether they are registered there. The aim of this approach is to prevent third parties from profiting from infringing trademarks.
For further information on this topic please contact Sıla Başaran at Deris Attorney At Law Partnership by telephone (+90 212 252 6122) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Deris Attorney At Law Partnership website can be accessed at www.deris.com.tr.
The materials contained on this website are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.
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