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  • Wendi Gundersen

Media confuses Copyright and Trademark in Reading Rainbow suit




I recently read a couple of stories on the new lawsuit filed by the owner of the IP rights in Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton.

The stories were a little confusing. They all stated that Mr. Burton and his company were being sued for copyright infringement, in part, because of his unauthorized use of the "you don't have to take my word for it" catchphrase. But the general rule is that you can't copyright catchphrases and titles. 

So I decided to look at the complaint. And sure enough, the plaintiff's attorneys were not as confused. The complaint alleges common-law-trademark infringement under the Langham Act. 

A couple of lessons emerge. The first is that many times news articles have a hard time understanding IP lawsuits. And the second is that while short phrases cannot be copyrighted—they may be protected by trademark law. 


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