Flashback to Super Bowl Sunday and think about the halftime show. Remember Katy Perry performing? Good. Now, what else do you remember about her performance? The giant tiger she rode in on, her fiery outfit, and of course, the dancing sharks.
The sharks stole the show—well, mainly the so-called “Left Shark.” He caught everyone’s attention because he was so uncoordinated and had offbeat dancing. Of course, the internet went crazy and was blown up with memes of this shark.
Some people took it further, like one designer who tried to make a 3-D model of the shark. Shortly after putting the model up on his website, shapeways.com, for sale, he heard from Perry’s lawyers. According to the Consumerist, a letter was posted on Instagram reading,
“Our client [Perry] recently has learned that you have been involved in the manufacture, sale, marketing and distribution of merchandise featuring a shark sculpture which embodies and uses the [Super Bowl halftime show], and that you have displayed this product on your website, in connection with such sale and distribution.”
The letter continued on and demanded that he stopped selling the models and had to hand over all of the ones he had in his possession.
Because this “Left Shark” caused such a phenomenon, Perry decided to try to trademark it. The attempted trademarks were for the design of the shark and the phrases “Left Shark,” “Right Shark,” “Drunk Shark,” and “Basking Shark.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the request, according to The Hollywood Reporter, because the design “identifies only a particular character; it does not function as a service mark to identify and distinguish applicant’s services from those of others and to indicate the source of applicant’s services.”
The other reason for the rejection of the trademark is that the design submitted does not match the “Left Shark” from the Super Bowl. Photos from the Super Bowl show differences in the amount of gills, the shape of the mouth and eyes, and the fins compared to the design that was submitted. The Super Bowl shark had “five gills, a full mouth with teeth and round eyes with eyelids,” but the design had “an upright shark in full front profile with no dorsal fin, two full pectoral fins and two legs and feet; the shark has three gills and the shark’s mouth appears without teeth; the shark also has oval eyes without eyelids.”
Besides the differences in the design, another problem with the trademark is that the term “Left Shark,” is too generic. Because anyone could use those words to describe almost anything, a trademark could not be granted. If Perry had specific ways that term could be used to describe things, that might have been a different story, but she can’t not allow anyone to use those two words without her approval.
Furthermore, the examiner had a problem with the request for the trademark on costumes. He wanted to know what specific costumes Perry wanted the trademark for; “costumes” is not specific enough. There was a similar issue with the request regarding “figurines.” What kind of figurines did she mean?
Basically, it looks like Perry is not getting a trademark on her famous “Left Shark.”