The Jersey Shore‘s Mike Sorrentino is seeking to capitalize on his reality star fame by trademarking and licensing several of his infamous catchphrases. However, the owner of the network that catapulted him to fame is claiming it has the rights to any intellectual property associated with the show.
Viacom, which owns MTV, has filed an opposition to Sorrentino’s application to trademark the word “twinning,” claiming that it is the rightful owner of any catchphrases that the stars of the show may create while under contract.
As Viacom argues in documents filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, “Under the terms of the Participant Agreement Form, all rights in any intellectual property relating to Jersey Shore belonged to 495 Productions Inc., the production company which creates the programs in the Series, which in turn assigned those rights by separate contract to Remote Productions Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom. Therefore, Viacom is the rightful owner of all rights in and to the ‘twinning’ mark and slogan.”
Sorrentino may face an uphill battle to trademark his catchphrases given the terms of the agreement he signed before he became a household name. It stated:
“All ideas, gags, suggestions, themes, plots, stories, characters, characterizations, dialogue, text, designs, graphics, titles, drawings, artwork, digital works, songs, music, photography, video, film and other material whether or not fixed or reduced to drawing or writing, at any time heretofore or hereafter created or contributed by me which in any way relate to [“Jersey Shore“]…”
The contract was later amended to include even more restrictive language. It states: “The above language shall not be construed to grant to Artist or otherwise allow Artist the right to issue t-shirts featuring Artist’s quotes from the series.”
This case highlights that agreements assigning the rights to intellectual property can often come back to haunt you. As a result, it is imperative to consult with an experienced trademark attorney, such as myself, before signing on the dotted line.