Netflix has reportedly obtained trademark rights to the name Space Force in several international territories before the U.S. government.
A week after the May 29th debut of Netflix’s Space Force ― an original comedy series based on the sixth branch of the U.S. military of the same name ― The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the streaming service had already secured Space Force trademarks in Europe, Australia, Mexico, and other countries, which means that the U.S. Armed Forces may no longer have the rights to use the name in those territories. And with the Air Force only having a pending application for registration in the U.S. based on an intent to use, it reveals that the streamer currently has more confirmed trademark rights than the U.S. military.
Given President Donald Trump’s background as a businessman, one would expect his administration to be quite aggressive in securing trademarks. However, for some reason, aggression on the trademark front hasn’t been a hallmark of the U.S. military under his administration. In fact, a rep for the Air Force told The Hollywood Reporter that they are “not aware of any trademark conflicts with the fictional program Space Force produced by Netflix” at this time. The spokesperson even wished the streamer and the producers of the show “the best in their creative depiction of our nation’s newest branch of the military.”
When asked if future trademark conflicts between Netflix and the U.S. military could blow out of proportion, trademark lawyer Ed Timberlake referred to Trump’s unpredictable nature. “Here, the branch is so new, and the executive branch so commercialized, and the commander in chief so attention-seeking, that I’m not sure we can know quite what to expect,” said Timberlake.
Nonetheless, legal experts strongly believe that Netflix would beat the U.S. military in a potential trademark battle stateside, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office usually grants trademarks based on a “first-to-use” basis, meaning the entity which uses a name in commerce first has priority over a trademark claim, regardless of when the trademark application is filed. Records show that Netflix was submitting applications for Space Force across the globe as early as January 2019, long before the U.S government officially assigned a name to the branch of the military.
A trademark battle overseas, meanwhile, is a totally different ballgame, as other countries don’t have the same First Amendment principles nor “fair use” standards as the U.S. does. And given the possibility of Netflix being outmuscled by the U.S. government in international locations, IP attorney Jennifer Ko Craft at Dickinson Wright said that the streamer’s decision to register the trademark worldwide was a “brilliant move.”
Co-created by Steve Carell and Greg Daniels of The Office, Netflix’s Space Force follows a group of people tasked with establishing the Space Force, whose first huge mission is to send the U.S. military to the moon. The series stars Carell as General Mark R. Naird, John Malkovich as Dr. Adrian Mallory, Ben Schwartz as F. Tony Scarapiducci, Diana Silvers as Erin Naird, Jimmy O. Yang as Dr. Chan Kaifang, and Tawny Newsome as Captain Angela Ali, among many others.