Tenet: Why Warner Bros Changed Film Logo to Avoid Brand Confusion

When the first trailer for Tenet came out on December 19th, 2019, writer and director, Christopher Nolan did not realize how similar the logo for his film came to a specific bicycle components company of the same name based out of Bellingham, Washington. The last two letters, "et" in Tenet, references "time inversion." The biking website Pinkbike first brought attention to the striking similarities. Owner Tyler Deschaine informed them of the context of the copyrights when it comes to distinguishing his company from Nolan's film. You can see the comparison on their Instagram.

Tenet: Warner Bros Changed Film Logo Avoiding Brand Confusion
John David Washington in Tenet. Image courtesy of Warner Bros

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"We were granted the trademark for 'Tenet' in the bicycle world on October 9th, 2018," Deschaine wrote. "In trademark law, that only protects us from word use within our industry. I don't have any issue with them using the word Tenet, there are thousands of trademarks for that word across dozens of industries. My issue is with the stylization, but that is neither here nor there. I've spoken with lawyers and despite the validity of my concerns, I've been advised not to pursue it. Even sending a letter could potentially open myself up to a preemptive lawsuit from Warner Brothers. These sorts of things can get dragged on for years and the legal fees can go well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We're a tiny component company that is taking baby steps to carve out a place for ourselves in the industry. We in no way want to get raked through the coals of litigation. That would end poorly for us. Also, we've got more important things to focus on, like developing new product and creating rad content. I want to make it clear that I never thought of this scenario as a get rich quick scheme. At the end of the day I just want to avoid potential damages to my brand's reputation and I suppose this article will help clear the air. Thank you Pinkbike for reaching out and giving the little guy a bigger voice. Now go see Tenet and think of us while the logo is spinning in front of your face."

Following the statement, Warner Bros reached out to Deschaine with an email from Nolan, which visitors can see on his site. The page begins with the disclaimer, "If you've stumbled upon this website during a quest for info regarding Christopher Nolan's film Tenet, or you're looking for a new set of bars and thought to yourself 'Wow that logo looks quite similar to that movies logo', this page is designed to clear the air. In 2017, I started conceptualizing this brand idea. During my quest for a name, I knew I wanted a palindrome and landed on the word Tenet. I initially thought that I had simply made up a word, but after a quick google search, realized that it actually had a meaning that aligned with my vision." Here is Nolan's email below.

"Dear Tyler,

Warners just showed me the logo for your company, so I wanted to reach out directly and reassure you that our logo was arrived at without reference to yours. I know this because I designed ours myself, evolving it over the last six years, driven by a fascination with the symmetries of a word which is central to my story and its themes. I thought I'd done something unique – but clearly you were driven by the same creative impulse. I guess lightning can strike twice, and obviously I understand that you would not want anyone thinking that you had been inspired by our movie's title treatment – feel free to quote me in shooting such misunderstandings down. I love our logo so I hope you won't feel this is necessary, but if you like, I can stop using it since it seems you went public with yours first.

Yours respectfully,

Chris Nolan"

Tenet stars John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Fiona Dourif, Clémence Poésy, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, and Himesh Patel. The film slated to hit theaters on July 17th. You can watch the trailer below.

About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.

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