Security software maker loses trademark case against Warner Bros.

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The Plymouth, Indiana-based security software maker that sued Warner Bros. after the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” referred to hacking software as “clean slate” lost its trademark infringement case before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The company, which has a program called “Clean Slate,” claimed its sales dropped after the movie came out.

The issue on appeal is “reverse confusion” – the movie’s use of the words “clean slate” could cause consumers to be confused about the source of Fortres Grand’s software. The federal court in South Bend held that the company failed to state several claims, including a reverse confusion claim.

Fortres Grand’s security software “Clean Slate” allows user changes to a shared computer to be wiped away to keep the computers free of private data. In “The Dark Night Rises,” Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, tried to get a software program referred to as “the clean slate” to erase all traces of her criminal past. Two websites were also created for marketing purposes purporting to be affiliated with the fictional Rykin Data Corp. that contained information of the clean slate hacking tool.

To succeed on its claim, Fortres Grand must plausibly allege that Warner Bros.’ use of the words “clean slate” in the movie has caused a likelihood that consumers will be confused into thinking Fortres Grand’s software is connected to the movie studio.

Judge Daniel Manion in Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 13-2337, noted there is little authority on how to treat the “similarity of the products” factor when one of them is fictional when using a seven-factor test to determine likelihood of confusion.

The judges decided to compare Fotres Grand’s software with Warner Bros.’ movie.

“Fortres Grand has alleged no facts that would make it plausible that a super-hero movie and a desktop management software are ‘goods related in the minds of consumers in the sense that a single producer is likely to put out both goods,’” Manion wrote, citing McGraw-Edison v. Walt Disney Prods., 787 F.2d 1163, 1166 (7th Cir. 1986).

“While the use of (clean slate) may be suggestive for security software, its use descriptively (and suggestively) is quite broad, including in reference to giving convicted criminals fresh starts, to redesigning the internet, or, indeed, to a movie about an investigator with amnesia,” Manion wrote, referring to the 1994 movie “Clean Slate.” “Accordingly, Warner Bros.’ descriptive use of the words ‘clean slate’ in the movie’s dialogue to describe a program that cleans a criminal’s slate is unlikely to cause confusion.”



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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.