Yesterday we reported that a pro-puppet coalition was planning a “Million Muppet March” on the National Mall in D.C. on Nov. 3, in support of continued funding for public broadcasting. The event is organized by private individuals, in no way associated with Sesame Street or The Muppets. But their use of the big “M” and the appearance of their logos (green and yellow street signs), triggered legal issue spotting PTSD flashbacks. Then, suddenly, late yesterday afternoon both the site and Facebook pages went blank. Is “the man” suppressing the rights of puppets peaceably to assemble because of the use of their brand and intellectual property in support of a political agenda? Was it just a preemptive concern about trademark issues? Am I totally overreacting? I had to brokevestigate.
Disney acquired the “Muppets” trademark from the Jim Henson Company years ago. The deal did not include the puppet residents of Sesame Street, which are owned by Sesame Workshop, whose trademark includes the green and yellow street sign. Anyway, both the big “M” and yellow, green and white street sign shape are elements that the trademark owners definitely claimed in their TM registration with the US Patent & Trademark Office, which gives them right to control the mark for commercial purposes like merchandising, which the MMM Facebook page is alive with discussion of. In the screen shot above of the MMM Facebook page of yesterday (left) vs. today (right), you’ll notice the words, color and shape have changed on the logo as well as “muppet” changing to “puppet” in the url.
In response to our inquiry about whether this change was in response to legal action the organizers responded:
No, we have not been made aware of any legal action against us by the owners of the Muppet (big M) trademark. We did feel like we were being a little bit elitist by creating the impression that only one kind of puppet was appreciated at our event. We wanted sock puppets and marionettes to know that they are just as welcome as the Whatnots.
We hope that more puppets will now attend, knowing that they are all welcome.
OK, sure. Puppet equality. I still think they’re going to get the crap sued out of them if they try to sell merch with any elements that might be construed as misleading of affiliation with Sesame Workshop or Muppets, but that’s just, like, my opinion man (based on 200k worth of legal education).
At press time there were almost 1,000 RSVPs on the Facebook event invite. Organizers did not comment on whether there was a chance the march could be cancelled due to legal concerns. Keep an eye on the new Facebook page and Tumblr for updates if you plan on heading to Washington the weekend before the election with your hand up a puppet’s ass.
Follow Rachel for more puppet-related legal advice @RaeinBk