Collectively, very few people had heard of the little Duck Duck Goose Boutique in Troy Ohio. They sell stylish baby clothing and accessories- you want to be like Bradjolina, you head to Duck Duck Goose Boutique. We know about them because we host their website- and because Steve came and took our Websitetology seminar.
Then Lionsgate Films sues them for selling something that says “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and it makes national news - note, the product’s manufacturer, Urban Smalls isn’t even mentioned in the news release:
Studio sues over “Dirty Dancing” line - Yahoo! News
Nobody puts Lionsgate in a corner. That’s the message of a trademark infringement lawsuit the studio behind “Dirty Dancing” has filed against several companies selling merchandise featuring the phrase “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” from the hit film.
The suit, filed August 15 in Los Angeles District Court, claims 15 companies including Uncommongoods.com in New York, Lucky Lou Boutique in Fishers, Ind., and Duck Duck Goose in Troy, Ohio, have used Lionsgate’s registered trademark without permission.
The quote, said by Patrick Swayze at the climax of the 1987 film starring Swayze and Jennifer Grey, has achieved a cult-like status, marketed and often repeated in films and TV shows for 20 years.
“The American Film Institute voted ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’ as one of the top 100 most popular quotes from a motion picture,” (it’s number 98) the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff markets and sells merchandise with the movie trademarks through approved licensees as part of the ‘Dirty Dancing’ line of approved merchandise.”
The defendants, many of which market baby clothing and merchandise, are not authorized to use the mark and have created a likelihood of confusion with merchandise authorized for sale by Lionsgate, the lawsuit alleges.
Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., seeks to prevent the businesses from selling merchandise containing the phrase. It also seeks a court order requiring the defendants to pay restitution as well unspecified statutory and actual damages, treble damages and punitive damages.
The defendants could not be reached for comment.
Lionsgate is obviously looking for some attention to hype some 20 years of Dirty Dancing promo, but is going about it in the wrong way. While the logo, the name of the movie, the stars, etc. can be trademarked, taglines and corporate slogans can be trademarked- language from a movie shouldn’t be allowed to be trademarked unless it is done before the release of the film. Coming back after a phrase catches on, is just bad manners. Fair use should also come into play- the only connection between that line and the movie is in the fans heads- and those of us who didn’t think the film was all that- wouldn’t have a clue that “Nobody puts baby in a corner” has any connection to Dirty Dancing.
Think about how many times you’ve heard or said “Beam me up Scotty”- it’s homage, not a lawsuit. In fact, most brands would love to have their trade slogan become a part of the lexicon- but in cases like Nike’s “Just do it” and Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” they were trademarked and created with the intent of generating income from the phrase- the same can’t be said for a line from the movie.
Did I go to see “The Terminator” because I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back”- of course not.
Little Duck Duck Goose Boutique isn’t harming Lionsgate, and wasn’t intentionally trying to steal their money. Any right thinking court of law would recognize that- but, from a PR standpoint- it’s certainly their 15 minutes of fame.