November 28, 2018
Marvel Comics (“Marvel”), known internationally for some of pop-culture’s most beloved characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Thor and the Punisher, has filed lawsuits against several companies attempting to trademark a skull image that looks similar to Marvel’s “Punisher” skull logo.
In 2015, Marvel opposed Molon Labe LLC’s (Molon Labe) attempt to trademark a skull image (below right) similar to Marvel’s Punisher skull logo (below left). Molon Labe, a gun enthusiast group, sought to use the logo on arms-related products, including “pistols and parts thereof; rifles and parts thereof; shotguns and parts thereof”.
In 2017, Marvel took legal action against Loyalty Bound LLC for using a similar skull logo (below left) on merchandise such as insulating sleeve holders for beverage cans. Most recently, Marvel challenged the unlicensed use of its Punisher skull logo by Three Percent Nation LLC (below right), an American Militia group, for “online retail store services featuring a wide variety of consumer goods of others”.
Molon Labe defaulted on its claim and Loyalty Bound abandoned its application. It will be interesting to see whether Three Percent Nation will be permitted to proceed with its application to trademark a skull logo that looks similar to the Punisher skull.
For trademark infringement claims in the US, a claimant must prove that: (i) it owns a valid mark, (ii) it is has priority in the mark and (iii) the alleged infringer’s mark is likely to cause confusion in the minds of consumers about the source or sponsorship of the goods or services offered.