Is the hollywood sign trademarked?
Letters to the Editor: The Hollywood sign isn’t maintained for free. It deserves to be trademarked
The Hollywood sign is a beloved Southern California landmark BUT is the hollywood sign trademarked? Built in 1923 and donated to the City of Los Angeles in 1944, it sits on public land atop Mt. Lee in Griffith Park.
The sign truly belongs to the public. And yet, in a sleight of hand, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce insists that it owns trademark rights to the sign’s “likeness” and therefore can charge for the use of that image.
For years, lawyers for the chamber have been threatening to sue over the use of the Hollywood sign in a variety of projects, from a student film and UCLA law school recruitment brochure to an advertising campaign and tourist photo. British YouTuber Tom Scott mocked the chamber’s trademark bullying by bleeping out the word “Hollywood Sign” and pixelating the sign as if it were some X-rated porn star in his video about the sign.
The chamber, which has had control of licensing trademarks for the sign since at least 1992, claims it has “certain trademark rights for usage of the Sign or its likeness for commercial purposes.” But what most people don’t realize is that the chamber tried and failed to register trademarks on the Hollywood sign with two applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2004.
Through nearly 100 years of marketing, promotion and protection by the Chamber, the “Hollywood” mark has acquired a far broader meaning that speaks specifically to the American film, entertainment and fashion industries. This meaning has far eclipsed its original designation as a promotional tool and mark for a real estate development.
Bottom line, the Hollywood sign is protected under U.S. and international laws and cannot be used without the Chamber’s permission.