By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A television network is asking a federal judge to dismiss a trademark lawsuit brought against it by the owners of a Cody magazine, arguing its use of the term “UFO” in the title of a program is protected by the First Amendment.
The owners of UFO Magazine, in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, claimed that Showtime infringed on the magazine’s trademark of the term “UFO,” an acronym for “unidentified flying object.”
The magazine trademarked “UFO” in 2007 for entertainment purposes and renewed the trademark in 2017, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit stems from Showtime’s docu-series “UFO” in 2021, which dealt with unidentified flying objects. According to the Showtime website, the series “explores our fascination with UFOs and the influence government, private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth.”
On Thursday, Showtime’s attorneys asked a judge to dismiss UFO Magazine’s lawsuit, arguing that the series was protected under the First Amendment.
“Despite the relevance of the ‘UFO’ title to the content of the series, despite the fact that the title uses ‘UFO’ in its commonly understood descriptive sense and despite the fact that UFO Magazine Inc. does not assert that it has released any television series with a ‘UFO’ title or that Showtime explicitly misled viewers about the source of the series, [the magazine owners] claims its ‘UFO’ trademark prevents Showtime from using ‘UFO’ as the title of its series,” Showtime’s attorneys wrote in court filings.
“Plaintiff is wrong,” they continued.
The attorneys also argued that the use of the term was relevant as the series title, since it is a documentary about UFOs.
The magazine’s first commercial use of the term occurred in 1998, the same year the company was formed, and the owners’ attorneys argued that the magazine has been in talks as recently as last year about developing either a television show or movie, according to the initial lawsuit filings.
The magazine owners are asking for Showtime to be barred from using the “UFO” term in any materials and also for the channel to pay for punitive damages, attorney fees and any other costs the court deem rightful.
According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, the magazine’s president is Peter Kuyper of Cody. Its legal representative or “registered agent” is Lisa M. Price of Jackson.
The magazine’s initial filing to be registered as a business in Wyoming was done in 2018. It was founded in California in the 1990s.
The term “U.F.O.” first appeared in military accounts about unidentified flying objects in the 1950s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.