Trademark Law

HBO responds to Trump tweet: 'How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?'

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President Donald Trump was warning Iran about U.S. sanctions when he posted a tweet on Friday, but it was HBO that publicly took umbrage.

Trump tweeted: “Sanctions are Coming, November 5” in a message written over a photo of the president looking stern. The message used a font similar to that used by HBO’s Game of Thrones and borrowed from its phrase “Winter is coming.” The Hollywood Reporter had coverage, followed by stories in publications that included the Washington Post, USA Today, Ars Technica and CNBC.

The tweet reinforced a White House announcement that the United States would reimpose sanctions on Iran that had been lifted with the 2015 nuclear agreement. Trump hopes the sanctions will force Iran to renegotiate the Obama-era deal.

HBO responded with a statement and a tweet. “We were not aware of this messaging and would prefer our trademark not be misappropriated for political purposes,” the network said in a statement.

HBO’s tweet referred to the Game of Thrones language. “How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?” is read.

According to Ars Technica, HBO has filed trademarks for “Winter is coming” and for some “typeface tweaks,” including bars and lines in and around letters in the show’s official logos.

HBO’s legal footing, however, “isn’t necessarily clear in this case,” Ars Technica said. “One person’s ‘misappropriated’ trademark may very well be another person’s fair use.”

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