Barack and Michelle Obama have a lot of time on their hands now that they are out of the White House. One of the ways they intend to fill that time up is to start their film and television production company.
The new production company already has a deal with Netflix to provide content, with the first being a documentary called “American Factory,” about a Chinese owned glass factory recently opened in Ohio.
Quartz is already gushing that the project is Oscar material.
However, a problem has arisen surrounding the Obamas’ rise to power as media moguls. They have gotten into a trademark dispute concerning the name of their media company, Higher Ground Productions.
Fox News tries to explain:
“Barack and Michelle Obama have been accused of ‘deplorable behavior’ by a Los Angeles entertainment attorney for filing a ‘meritless petition’ amid a trademark dispute over the name of their company, Higher Ground Productions. The legal team representing the Obamas filed a petition to cancel the trademark of an e-book publishing company called Higher Ground Enterprises, much to the chagrin of the publishing company. This is really deplorable behavior. I hope that the Obamas realize that these actions are not consistent with the values they preach and that they instruct their attorneys to immediately dismiss the petition,’ attorney Larry Zerner told Fox News in a statement that was first given to The Hollywood Reporter.”
As Hot Air notes, the Obamas seem to have gotten themselves into easily avoidable trouble. When one starts a business and wants to trademark the name of the enterprise, the first thing one does is to search to make sure that someone else has not already trademarked the name.
If someone has already trademarked the name, then one has two options, either pick another name or reach out to the other business to see if they are willing to sell their trademark.
The Obamas are choosing the third option. They are attempting to use legal muscle to try to steal the trademark of Higher Ground Enterprises and claim it for their own. Barack and Michelle Obama want the name for their new movie and TV production company and they mean to get it.
The problem is that the Obama trademark application has already been rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark officer because Higher Ground Productions is much too similar to Higher Ground Enterprises.
Their persistence caused Eriq Gardner, a writer for the Hollywood Reporter, to remember how Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low, we go high.” Then Gardner snarked, “Going high evidently includes a trademark fight.”
Since the notion that “We’re the Obamas and we want that trademark” likely would not fly, the lawyer for the two former residents of the White House is asserting that their production company could not be mistaken for an e-book publisher despite having virtually the same name.
The application to cancel the e-book publisher’s trademark claims that the potential customers are just too sophisticated to confuse the two companies. They also claim that the previous trademark was not in use in 2016 when the Obamas made their application.
As Hot Air notes, Higher Ground Enterprises has a “David and Goliath” battle on its hands with the trademark dispute. While the Obamas have plenty of legal resources to crush their opponents in endless court battles, the fact that they are trying to muscle a small business for essentially a name would not be a good look for America’s most famous power couple.
The statement by Larry Zerner suggests that Higher Ground Enterprises expects to wage the fight, in part, in the court of public opinion.
Including “American Factory,” The Obamas have seven media projects in various stages of development. Their goal is to create a variety of scripted and unscripted content that will not only entertain, but “educate” and “inform.”
The Obamas’ goal could also be seen as an attempt to reconstruct their legacy, now being torn down by Barack Obama’s successor to the presidency, Donald Trump.
Laws passed during the Obama years can be repealed and regulations swept away with the same phone and pen used to create them. But movies and TV shows can, in theory, live forever on the Netflix streaming service.
Some suggest that the trademark dispute is an unnecessary complication in pursuit of that goal.