Saturday, November 14, 2020

Pour a Shirley Temple, but not to celebrate odd-looking Catwoman memorabilia!

Oh, the world of "licensed" BATMAN products can be confusing. This involves issues of trademark and copyright. It also involves "intellectual property." WHO is THIS Catwoman? Yike!

The company was allowed to say "Cat Woman 1966," but that sure doesn't look like Julie! A lot of action figures look very much like her, or even mention her on the box. What gives?  

Go ask the lawyers! Or check with companies that may have only had a budget to use "Cat Woman" and not the name of anyone specific. It's been a pretty even "battle" with companies taken to court over "intellectual property." The heirs for Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, for example, won, and get a percentage of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" merchandise. Even with make-up on, their famous faces are evident. But, losing, was a claim by the Fred Astaire estate over a TV commercial that had him dancing with a vacuum cleaner! The studio claimed he was under contract and this was a movie clip and and he wasn't named in the ad...whatever. They won.

You win some, you lose some. Heirs to the Three Stooges get money...but not all of them. A judge ruled that the daughter of Curly Howard (the original Curly) gets nothing, because the LAST group known as The Three Stooges featured "Curly Joe" DeRita, so, er, uh, even if all the merch shows the original Curly, it's De Rita's heirs that rake in the dough. 

So when you notice some product that doesn't look like Julie, there may be a legal reason. 

Lastly, many stars and companies are acting to protect the fans. They are making sure that the product is not shoddy, and as accurate and as of good quality of possible. There's also a bit of morality involved, as  money should go to the creatives not the bootleggers. No less a "nice" lady than Shirley Temple recognized this back in 1989. She told US magazine that she had no problem with the cute use of her name as a drink but, she....

"...sued to stop Soda Pop Kids Co from advertising its Shirley T. soda. The alcohol-free drink called a Shirley Temple (ginger ale, grenadine and a maraschino ocherr) ha been served in restaurants since the 1930s. Shirley doesn't mind that a bit. But "commercial theft" is something else. "I'm a tigress about protecting my name, and my attorneys will go after anyone who is using my name on a product without my permission." 

In the end, the fans win when the stuff they collect is built to last and a worthy investment. It's a bit sad when somebody buys a bootleg photo that fades in a year, or a fake autographed item, or drinks something bad and grunts, "Why did Shirley Temple allow her name on THAT swill?" 

As to people who collect those weird Funko items and actually don't care if the face is right as long as the costume is? To use a Batman phrase: "OOF!" Knock yourselves out.


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