The European Union have rejected a trademark application for the word 'Zorro'. Here's the documentation in question, recently published.
In May 2013, Robert Cabell author of Z — The Musical of Zorro received legal letters, Zorro Productions Inc, a company that claims to have inherited rights from Johnston McCulley's first Zorro story from 1919 and has been licensing those rights. These included the two recent Fox movies starring Antonio Banderas and the novel by Isabel Allende.
Well the trademark battle is also being fought in Europe, as Cabell took that fight to a foreign court, and won. The case was decided over the fact that the word Zorro is judges to be specific to the character, and not a description of a product.
Now, Zorro is not public domain in Europe yet, so why the fuss over the trademark in the European Union?
With copyright expiration dates for a lot of famous early twentieth century pop culture coming to an end, many US corporations have planned to trademark everything they can, everywhere they can instead, to get some sort of exclusivity to the properties, even if content itself falls into public domain.
Basically, anyone could publish Zorro comics, but only the trademark owner could publish a comic actually called Zorro.
But every attempt to do so in Europe has failed so far. The court decision mentions that the same was attempted for Pinocchio,
And in France, the comic Les Pieds Nickeles, now in public domain, has failed to do so either.
Now, due to different copyright laws some things are in public domain in Europe but not in US and vice-versa.
In Zorro's case, his is just getting ahead of the game. On the other hand, Popeye is public domain in Europe but not in the US.
But most of the world follows similar copyright legislation to Europe. Could this be grist to the mill for Capell's fight against ZPI back in the US?
And what future the planned Django Unchained/Zorro Quentin Tarantino movie?
Superman? Mickey Mouse? We've already seen battles in comics over John Carter, this looks like it will be the big comic book news story for the next two decades as the big corporations lawyer up against the opportunity seizers…