Nemsi Books would like to thank all the people who signed the petition to cancel the Winnetou trademark. Your support has been and continues to be invaluable to us.
Federal Civil Court of California Accepts Karl May USA’s Voluntary Dismissal.
Nemsi Books accepted Karl May USA, Inc.’s Stipulation of Voluntary Dismissal of all claims asserted in the lawsuit filed on March 31st, 2011 by Karl May USA, Inc.
On March 9th, 2012, the Honorable Dean D. Pregersen signed the order that Karl May USA, Inc. be dismissed with prejudice, that it file an express withdrawal of its clothing trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office within ten (10) days of this order, update the pending cancellation proceedings in connection with the trademark, and abandon the mark and all reference to the mark on all web sites owned and controlled by Karl May USA Inc. (see: Document 28)
Despite repeated requests to adhere to the above court order, Karl May USA, Inc. has to date not taken the proper steps to cancel the trademark.
In its order dated December 5th, 2002, the German Supreme Court confirmed that the name Winnetou had, due to its fame, become a synonym for a noble Indian Chief and was therefore not suitable to serve as a trademark for the publication of books, magazines or film productions that dealt with this fictional character. (see: BGH Ruling I ZB 19/00)
In 1963, fifty (50) years after Karl May’s death , his works and the fictional characters he created entered the public domain. In this 100th anniversary year of Karl May’s death it is fitting that his iconic characters enjoy the total freedom they deserve.
Stop the exploitation! Join the movement and help us free Karl May’s iconic characters.
The original works of Karl May entered the public domain in 1963, fifty years after the death of their creator. But the freedom that this status should have granted to the works of Karl May was short-lived.
One only needs to consult the German Trademark Register and search for the term “Winnetou” to see how a famous name has been and still is exploited by those who have not yet understood the message that Karl May embedded in his “Traveler’s Tales”.
Winnetou, the fictional noble Indian Chief, who was born behind the dark prison walls during Karl May’s captivity was to be the focus of a quest for the lost human soul. Now, however, this fictional character and his fictional blood brother ‘Old Shatterhand’ are the objects of the very greed and avarice that Karl May spoke against in his many novels. Karl May wrote in his autobiography
I want to tell parables and fables, with the truth being hidden deeply inside, the truth which by other means cannot be perceived, yet. I want to derive light from the darkness of my prison life. I want to convert the punishment, which has come upon me, into freedom for others …. I want my readers to stop regarding life as a merely material existence. This view is a prison for them, beyond the walls of which they are unable to see, to behold the sunny, free, wide land.
And yet, greed, avarice, legal wrangling and the drive to bind a fictional noble Indian Chief and his companion to one person and to one company continues unabated. Karl May wrote in his autobiography
For whom were my books written? Quite naturally for the people, for all the people, …
What better homage can we show for Karl May’s work than to cease all this squabbling and make his books available to all the people of this world without wanting to own the names of the famous characters he created.
Have we learned nothing from Karl May’s writings?
Karl May admonished his readers in his autobiography
Since my books contain nothing but parables and fables, it goes without saying that the reader is supposed to think about them thoroughly and thus my books only belong in the hands of people, who are not only able to think, but also willing to bestow thought upon them.
Apparently this warning went unheeded.
Why do we oppose the trademark?
We do so because, had the truth been known, the names of Karl May’s famous fictional characters should have been rejected by the trademark office upon application.
The German courts have repeatedly held that famous characters from actual or literary history cannot be registered for goods (such as books or films) that may directly deal with classic characters.
Similarly, the Lanham Act states that, a mark must be able to identify and distinguish goods or services from those goods or services provided by others. (See 15 U.S.C. § 1127) and since fictional characters are often simultaneously associated with a number of different sources, including authors, producers, sponsors and even themselves, a fictional character’s name is unable to identify a single source and is therefore unable to serve the goals of trademark law.
We also believe that Karl May’s intent is better served if his fictional characters can be explored and not exploited. Karl May wrote in his autobiography
In my entire work, not including the humorous short stories and village-tales from the Ore Mountains, there is not a single character that is fully developed and perfected by me, not even Winnetou and Hajji Halef Omar about whom I have written more than any others. After all, I am not finished with my own development yet. I am still changing. Everything within me is still forging ahead and so are my characters and all of my topics.
His fictional characters must therefore remain unfettered so that they can freely develop and grow within each of us.
As Karl May stated
The welfare of mankind demands that there shall be peace between the two, no more exploitation and bloodshed. I was resolved to constantly emphasize this in my books and to kindle in my readers the love for the red race and for the inhabitants of the Orient, which we owe them as fellow human beings.
Let us hope that this message will soon be understood by all.
The Winnetou Trademark has been approved for registration on the 21st April 2010 with a statement of use that employed the products of Universum Film. The new owner Ms Sabine Niederberghaus-Lesavoy claims herself to be a German citizen and the official Karl May Verlag representative.
Now is the time for all Karl May fans to bond together and oppose this affront to the noble Apache Chief.
The time for litegation has finally come ….
You can view the Winnetou Trademark “in commerce” submission (8.59MB) here