It may seem as if Christmas time is only ever about holiday cheer, peace on earth, and remembering the birth of Christ. But we all know (lawyers, especially) that those aren’t the only staples and spectacles of the season. People file lawsuits even during Christmastime, which isn’t shocking at all. It’s actually a regular occurrence, particularly if the legal cases are disputes involving things like Santa Claus, a holiday-themed movie, or The Grinch.
Here comes (the fake) Santa Claus
North Pole, United States is the unofficial but universally acknowledged address of Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus. But that didn't stop Ohio resident Warren Hayes from getting an official ID card in the name of “Santa Claus.” Hayes was also able to obtain a checking account, an AAA membership card, and an official motor vehicle registration under the name Santa Claus. And who are we to question the issuing institutions’ decision to allow Hayes to live life as Father Christmas?
Why anyone would want to go by the name Santa Claus isn’t even that bizarre. But those brazen enough to live life as Santa should attempt to lead a Santa-like existence. Alas, Santa Hayes was not up to the task; he was arrested after getting into a minor car accident. He then had to show his Ohio ID bearing his fake name to a police officer and was charged under an Ohio statute prohibiting the use of fictitious names.
This case goes to show that not everyone can bear the burden of being Santa, the official distributor of children’s gifts. What this case does not show is how the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles managed to allow this man to hold an ID with a fake name for 20 years. In any case, Mr. Hayes should expect coals down his chimney in Christmases to come.
How a Grinch canceled a play!
The iconic children’s tale How The Grinch Stole Christmas! written by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel ends on a happy note. [SPOILER ALERT] The mean, green, Christmas-hating creature The Grinch realizes toward the end of the story that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts but also love, togetherness, and heartwarming yuletide carols. By contrast, a lawsuit involving playwright Matthew Lombardo and Dr. Seuss Enterprises LP, the owner of the copyrights of Dr. Seuss’s works, was never going to have a happy ending.
The lawsuit: Lombardo wrote a play called Who’s Holiday!, a story of a woman (the Cindy Lou Who composite character) who kills her husband (referred to as “The Grinch”) and goes to prison for it. Dr. Seuss Enterprises got wind of the play and complained to the theater that was supposed to stage the play, resulting in the play’s cancellation. The play did get canceled, depriving the world of what sounds like an interesting reimagining of the Dr. Seuss classic. Lombardo filed suit against the copyright owner for $130,000 plus the cost of the production’s cancellation.
We’ll never know how Lombardo’s reimagined version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! ends. What we do know is that this case will serve as a reminder that those who attempt to recreate the classic tale will likely be met with resistance by Grinch-like characters from Dr. Seuss Enterprises LP.
Home Alone 2’s accidental impact on fashion and trademark law
“Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal” is an instantly recognizable quote from the film Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, and fans of the film may use it to greet their loved ones during the holiday. Marketing geniuses know that such an extraordinary catchphrase deserves to be printed on shirts to be sold to lovers of fashion. At least two clothing companies have, in fact, fought for the right to use the quote on their products.
An Ohio company called DT Fashions owns the trademark to MERRY CHRISTMAS YA FILTHY ANIMALS and sells shirts and other gear with “Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal” imprinted on them. Meanwhile, another company, The Dark Company, wanted a share of the market and filed an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register that wonderful phrase for their gain.
DT Fashions sued and won the trademark dispute. The Dark Company could have seriously been well-served to choose another iconic phrase from another iconic Christmas movie. Unfortunately for them, though, John McClane saying “Yippee Ki Yay” in Die Hard is already taken.
Lawsuits may go hand-in-hand with the holiday season. Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are the lawyers to call if you need to consult dedicated and experienced family law and personal injury lawyers in Washington state. Leave us a message.