From products like Rapunzel, a hair product calling itself the future of hair to the name of teen rapper Rap-Unzel, the name Rapunzel is used far more than often than the familiar stories of Grimm and Disney. Now United Trademark Holdings is attempting to trademark Rapunzel for its line of dolls.
I’m really gobsmacked when I see companies attempt to trademark names that have long belonged to everyone under the guise of, “oh, we’re just trademarking it for the use of dolls because we’ve got a line of Rapunzel dolls coming up. Just dolls. Nothing to see here. Really.”
Thank goodness, there are people paying attention to these things…
Don’t panic. A host of Prince Charmings and Fairy Godmothers have taken an interest in United Trademark Holding Inc.’s activities. Law Professors Rebecca Curtin and Loletta Darden of Suffolk University Law School, along with help from Suffolk’s Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic, filed an opposition at the TTAB to United’s trademark registration on May 9, 2018.
In their Notice of Opposition, they argue that the name Rapunzel belongs to the public. “No company should ever be able to be the only company that can call their doll Rapunzel, because Rapunzel is already in the public domain,” said Curtin, who specializes in intellectual property law. “Rapunzel already belongs to everyone.”
Rapunzel is one of my favorite fairy tale princesses long before the Disney movie came out. It’s been around for a long time because, well, it’s based on an old fairy tale whose origins go all the way to 1634 when it first appeared as Petrosinella. It would later appear as Persinette in 1698 and then Rapunzel in 1790 before the brothers Grimm would add it to their collection of fairy tales in Children’s and Household Tales in 1812.
So how does a company in 2018 decide to apply for a trademark for the name? Can they prove they had first use of it? I don’t know anything about trademark law but I know about greed and there’s way too much of it these days.
Even words—words we and our ancestors grew up using—aren’t safe.
Hell, nothing is safe.