Totally Bananas: Company Given Copyright Injunction Over Banana Costume

We have yet another controversy over our ever-expanding copyright and trademark ruling. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is looking at a copyright injunction issued to stop a company, Kangaroo Manufacturing, from selling certain costumes including a large banana.

We recently discussed an absurd effort to trademark a hashtag or the word “chunky” for soups. We have been discussing a disturbing trend in copyright and trademark claims over things occurring in public or common phrases or terms. (For a prior column, click here). We have often discussed the abusive expansion of copyright and trademark laws. This includes common phrases, symbols, and images being claimed as private property (here and here and here and here and here and hereand here and here and here and here and here). This included a New York artist claiming that he holds the trademark to symbol π.  Even the Trump legal team sought to trademark “Keep America Great.” Campbell insists that it has spent over a billion dollars on advertising, including clunky references that have been parodied. With more than $13 billion worth of Chunky soup sold since 1988, the company insists that it has an indelible association with the term.

In this case, Courthouse News Service reported that Kangaroo Manufacturing’s banana costume was found to resemble that of costume-maker Rasta Imposta. Bananas however appear in public and tend to look pretty similar. Rasta merely made a costume resembling a natural image or object. Yet, Rasta insists that its banana is an interpretation with distinct elements.

New Jersey. U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman handed down a . . . well . . . split decision. He ruled for Rasta on two issue and Kangaroo on one issue.

Notably, he noted “It seems safe to posit that there is no universal view of what a banana costume is or what it should look like.”

However, when one makes a costume to look like a banana, the range of a banana-like costume is limited by nature.

The Third Circuit will now be heard in the overripe case of Bananagate.

19 thoughts on “Totally Bananas: Company Given Copyright Injunction Over Banana Costume”

  1. The outcome of this case will, no doubt, be discussed at length and in depth by legal scholars in Sundae Schools throughout the United States. We should bear in mind that the legal landscape is loaded with such seemingly absurd battles. The 2008 New England Patriots tried to get a trademark for “19-0” to represent a perfect season. Subway tried to get exclusive use over the term “footlong” (even though their sandwiches were never technically a foot long to begin with). Syracuse University tried to trademark the term “orange.” And corporations Monster Cable and Monster Energy battled it out for control over the word “monster.” And for a while, DC Comics and Marvel were able to block others from using the term “superhero” in publications and merchandise.

  2. This is an abuse of copyright law and should be treated as such.

    You should not be able to copyright a banana costume, or an apple, or a slice of bread, nor should you be able to copyright such images. They exist in nature, and are not unique to the creator.

    You cannot copyright a generic sponge costume, but you could do so with a Sponge Bob character. You cannot copyright all bunny images, or Easter decor would have an Extinction Level Event, but you can copyright Bugs Bunny. It has to be sufficiently unique to set it apart from the natural image.

    1. Now, if he designed a banana costume wearing a red dress, as a symbole of transgenderism, that would be unique. Subtle.

  3. The way you get rid of this idiocy is to have Judges call out lawyers who file frivolous law suits. But they don’t have the backbone for that. Or maybe they just appreciate the increased business it provides for their government department and their colleagues in the law. Maybe the A.B.A. does as well, which doesn’t seem to care one wit about tying up the courts, not to mention the economy, with this.

  4. Trump should copyright the name “Trumpster” and have a photo of himself with a trumpet which is copyrighted.
    Pelosi should have the copyright on the word “Siciliano”.
    Mitch McConnell should have the copyright on the word “Pussface”.
    Joe Biden should have the name “Hullahoop Joe”.
    Chucky Schumer should copyright the name “Glasses Down My Nose”.
    CNN Cuomo should copyright the name: “Wondering Why?”

  5. Warner Brothers’ legal department once sent a letter to The Marx Brothers stating that they could not name their new movie “A Night in Casablanca.” Groucho replied: “You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without your permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were Brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as The Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye…..(The Groucho Letters, 1967).

    Marx, G., (1967). The Groucho Letters. New York, NY: Manor Books, Inc.

    This book of letters to and from Groucho Marx is so funny. The letter to Warner Brothers is much longer, and is followed by two more because The Warner Brothers legal department just didn’t get the joke!

    1. Sharon……didn’t know about the Groucho letters. Thanks! Sounds hilarious.
      Last Saturday “A Day at the Races” was on tv and I had my grandsons, ages 8 and 10, sit down and watch with me.. They LOVED it…..and had never really seen the Brothers before. They laughed so hard!

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