Intellectual Property Attorney

Fifty Shades Of Wine? Merchandise Licensing Strategies For Book Brands

We’ve written previously here about musicians seeking to add new revenue streams and strengthen their brands through inventive merchandising strategies. Not surprisingly, authors are also getting “into the act.”

As reported in USA Today, E.L. James, the author of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series of books, has licensed the trademark for use on wine. The wine comes in two varieties, Red Satin and White Silk.

As with any merchandising program, careful attention must be paid to ensure that the licensed products are a good fit for the brand. According to James, “Wine plays an important role in Fifty Shades of Grey, reflecting the sensuality that pervades every encounter between Anastasia and Christian.” Thus, the wines are a “natural extension” of the book series.

Authors considering a merchandising program should be aware that a single book title cannot be registered as a trademark. See, Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure § 1202.08. Only the name of a
series of books may be registrable if it serves to identify and distinguish the source of the goods. Authors seeking to develop a merchandising program based on their books should ensure that the intended trademark does more than merely identify a character in the books and that it is consistently and prominently displayed on each of the book covers.

As for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” it appears that the intended merchandising program will extend far beyond wines. The same entity that applied to register the trademark for “wines” (Serial No. 85/648,154) has also applied to register the mark for a plethora of other goods, ranging from handbags, picture frames and mugs to lingerie, scented candles, sex manuals, whips and handcuffs, as well as various “adult sexual stimulation aids” (Serial Nos. 85/648154, 85/978,199 and 85/978,198). Talk about a “natural extension.”

We will continue to explore some of the legal considerations for authors, musicians and other creative individuals seeking to develop merchandising programs.

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