Some people in New York might be familiar with a comic book called “Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!” The book was crowdfunded by ComicMix and is a mashup of the Star Trek franchise and the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In 2016, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, sued ComicMix, but a federal judge ruled in March 2019 that the book fell under fair use. The district court also found that there was not financial harm to Dr. Seuss Enterprises as a result of the book’s existence. The case then went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments on April 27.
The district-level judge said that the book was “transformative,” but the Dr. Seuss Enterprises attorney said the work fails to comment on or criticize the original. The Ninth Circuit judge took issue with the work as a mashup that differed from a parody, saying that simply mixing two things together did not make it transformative. ComicMix is arguing that the book does comment on the character in the original Seuss work using values promoted by the Star Trek franchise.
The other factor to be determined is its impact on the market. ComicMix’s argument is that the work is so different from the Seuss book that there is no competition, but Dr. Seuss Enterprises says it infringes on the graduation gift market.
It can be important for individuals and companies to protect their intellectual property whether that is in the form of copyright, trademark or other types of IP. Individuals or companies that have intellectual property may want to consult an attorney to find out whether it needs to be registered or other ways it should be protected. An attorney may also be able to advise those who believe their intellectual property is being violated. While some cases may be settled out of court, others may require litigation.