‘Space Force’ copyright: Did Netflix outwit Trump’s administration to the naming rights?

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“Space is going to be the future both in terms of defense and offense and so many other things,” Trump said. “We’re now the leader in space.” Wochit

There’s a level of irony to it.

A brand-new satiric comedy has outwitted the U.S. Government to the very namesake that inspired the show. 

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has secured the trademark rights for the “Space Force” name before the U.S. government has.

The streaming-giant has secured the naming rights for the show in Europe, Australia, Mexico and applied for the trademark in January 2019, nearly a year before Congress agreed to fund President Trump’s new military branch under a $738 billion defense policy bill.  

President Trump announced plans for Space Force in 2018. However, per the THR report, the Air Force has only a pending trademark request for the branch’s name. 

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office relies primarily on a “common law” ruling for trademark registration; whichever entity first uses a given trademark in commerce secures the rights to it. Other nations use a “first-to-file” rule, and that’s why Netflix has already secured rights in Europe, Australia and Mexico.

The sitcom may be protected under parody guidelines under trademark law, but the potential battleground for naming rights may rest in the use of the name on commercial products such as clothing or travel mugs where consumers could confuse the two identities. 

Netflix’s “Space Force” is a spoof on the new military branch, starring Steve Carrell, John Malkovich and Ben Schwartz. The show debuted in May. 

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Neil Strebig is a journalist for the York Daily Record and curator for the York on the Move newsletter. He can be reached at nstrebig@ydr.com, 717-825-6582 or via Twitter @neilStrebig

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