According to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the answer is “No,” as the PTO recently refused an application by the producer of the podcast to register the mark SERIAL for an ongoing audio program, finding that the mark was too “descriptive” to be registered (the decision and related documents can be found here – note it is a relatively big file). This case demonstrates the need for companies and other content creators to be creative in choosing the brands by which their works will be known, as a name that is too generic may face hurdles like this one when the creator tries to protect its brand through a federal trademark registration. Media companies all need to think carefully about program names and other brands to be sure that they can be protected – especially if they hit it big.
SERIAL is the Peabody award-winning podcast from the creators of the public radio program This American Life. The podcast, narrated by journalist Sarah Koening, is a long form story, told over the course of multiple episodes, that looks into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and the resulting conviction of her former boyfriend, Adnan Masud Syed. Since its launch in October 2014, Season 1 has been downloaded in the United States over 80 million times, with episodes still being downloaded at a clip of over a 100,000 times a month. Season 2 of SERIAL just concluded last week. Media observers have called SERIAL a phenomenon which fueled the 2014 podcast renaissance. Given that it is so well-known and successful, why did the PTO refuse to register the name of this groundbreaking podcast?
Continue Reading SERIAL Trademark Denied – Should One of the Most Popular Podcasts Ever Be Able to Protect Its Name?