Intellectual Property Law

Hacking software in Batman movie doesn’t infringe on real-life product, says 7th Circuit

Corrected: Saying that moviegoers aren’t likely to confuse fictional hacking software coveted by Catwoman in a recent Batman movie with a similar-sounding real-life product that has a legitimate purpose, a federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a trademark infringement suit.

Although Fortres Grand Corp. argued that consumers might be reluctant to purchase its Clean Slate software for fear that it is a hacking program, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t buying the argument. Even such “unusually gullible hypothetical consumers” couldn’t believe that movie-maker Warner Bros. was actually licensing such a “diabolical hacking tool” in connection with The Dark Knight Rises, the court held in its opinion (PDF) last week.

“Fortres Grand has alleged no facts that would make it plausible that a superhero movie and desktop management software are ‘goods related in the minds of consumers in the sense that a single producer is likely to put out both goods,’ ” Judge Daniel Manion wrote for the three-judge panel. He noted that Warner Bros. doesn’t sell any Batman-themed software similar to Clean Slate, Courthouse News reports.

In the movie, Catwoman seeks to use the fictional hacking software to erase globally all of her criminal records throughout the world. In real life, the Clean Slate product sold by Fortes Grand returns a computer to its original set-up after reboot, a feature that is helpful to prevent library-goers and others working on third-party computers from loading them with unauthorized programs.

Updated Aug. 25 to correctly state that Catwoman sought to use the software.

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