Retail Shop Infringes on “Harry Potter” Licensing Rights

As South Florida readers in the entertainment industry likely know, licensing right disputes are a common threat to incomes and profits. While infringement most often occurs during the whirlwind days when a film, song, book or other property is first released, a recent case in Los Angeles shows that licensing infringements can also occur years after legally protected materials are initially released.

In early 2013, Warner Bros. filed suit against a shop in Los Angeles called Whimsic Alley, accusing it of selling and renting out unlicensed “Harry Potter”-branded items. Specifically, Warner Bros. claimed that Whimsic Alley’s wizard costumes, wands and Hogwarts-style “great halls” that it supplied for children’s parties were created and marketed without permission from Warner Bros., which the owner of most “Harry Potter” trademarks. Warner Bros. claimed that the extent of infringement entitled it to demand both compensation and the potential shuttering of the costume and gift shop.

Supporters of Whimsic Alley began a letter-writing campaign in what was viewed by many as a “David and Goliath”-type scenario, but attorneys following the case understood the legal ramifications of the dispute. Intellectual property law attorney Allen Grodsky of The Los Angeles Times noted that Whimsic Alley had been accused of illegally marketing unlicensed merchandise before and that he could “understand why Warner Bros. is upset.” Whimsic Alley’s attorneys must have agreed. Following a confidential settlement with Warner Bros., the store will be allowed to remain open, but it will have to “make changes” in its product that reflect a permanent injunction barring it from “displaying any ‘Harry Potter’ trademarks and other ‘confusingly similar’ marks in the shop or on its website”.

Irrespective of the scenario of this case, the fact is, trademark infringement is unfair and illegal and can cost you or your business a significant amount of money. If you believe another party is infringing on a trademark you own, protect your property and rights with the help of an attorney skilled in contract, intellectual property entertainment law. The attorneys of Manos &Alwine, P.L. have handled trademark infringement disputes since 1999. To contact us, call 305-341-3100.