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The Winnetou Trademark Exposed

October 9th, 2011

Are Our Products Safe?

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

Does this look familiar? It should! Its Rialto Film's Limited DVD Collection of Karl May's Winnetou Trilogy.

The Danish/German film company, Rialto Film, was founded by Constantin Philpsen in 1897. Little is known about Rialto’s productions prior to 1950. What is certain, however, is that Rialto became an international success with the release of the Edgar Wallace and Karl May series of films in the 1960’s.

Let us take a closer look at the front and the back cover. Notice that they clearly show Rialto Film, Tobis, Universum Film and UFA, among other company names associated with the production and distribution of the motion picture.

Here is a closer view of the front cover

A closer view of the back cover

Who put this WinnetouTM sticker on the cover?

According to the Lanham Act, the term “trademark” includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof –
(1) used by a person, or
(2) which a person has a bona fide intention to use in commerce and applies to register on the principal register established by this chapter, to identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods, even if that source is unknown.

Can anyone simply attach a sticker to any product and claim to be the source?

Does a trademark sticker on someone else’s product give the registrant the right to sue for trademark infringement?

Is any “Winnetou” product produced by others safe?

One has to wonder!

Want to know more? View the court documents here or read the Trademark Cancellation documents here.

... and claimed to be the source of these products?

Check out the trademark register at the USPTO type in the word “Winnetou” or “Shatterhand” and see the submissions of those who seek to own Karl May’s famous characters.

The above images are sourced from Amazon and the United States Trademark Office.

What’s in a Name?

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 […]

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