Media giant and entertainment conglomerate Disney has blocked Justin Sun’s blockchain platform Tron from acquiring trademarks bearing the brand name TRON and two variations, claiming that the applications would damage its brand.
The applications were blocked on November 6 by the US Patent and Trademark Office. According to a report by Decrypt, Tron has filed no response.
Disney has built a large part of its multi-billion-dollar empire on high-profile branding and global marketing campaigns for successful franchises from its expansive film division, delivering hits from Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Blue Sky Studio.
“Tron” is a 1982 sci-fi film produced by Walt Disney Productions, grossing $50 million at the box office. A sequel titled “Tron:Legacy” was released on December 17, 2010. It blew up at the box office, grossing $400 million worldwide and spawning the animated series “Tron: Uprising”.
The plot of Tron:Legacy is intertwined with the digital world. According to the official synopsis,
“The son of a virtual world designer goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world that his father designed. He meets his father’s corrupted creation and a unique ally who was born inside the digital world.”
Tron, founded by Justin Sun, is a blockchain network that utilizes a native cryptocurrency, Tron (TRX), to power a digital crypto economy of global digital entertainment content. The network uses distributed storage technology to enable users to share digital content easily and at low cost. Tron purchased file sharing giant BitTorrent last year for over $100 million.
TRX is currently the 12th largest cryptocurrency, according to data compiled by CoinMarketCap, with a market cap of $898.2 million.
Sun grabbed media headlines earlier this year after attending Warren Buffett’s annual charity auction where he won a lunch date with the legendary investor upon donating $4.6 million to Glide Foundation, an organization that helps the homeless in San Francisco. This week Sun pledged $1 million to support environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
As a young entrepreneur, I share @GretaThunberg’s passion to change the world. Crypto will contribute immensely on reducing carbon footprint by implementing decentralized settlement. I would like to personally commit USD$1 Mil to @GretaThunberg ’s initiative. #cop25
— Justin Sun (@justinsuntron) December 18, 2019
A Google search shows Tron, the movie, dominating search results with entries from IMDb, Disney Movies, Tron Wiki Fandom, Rotten Tomatoes and YouTube. For results to display content related to Sun’s blockchain network Tron, users have to search for “Tron TRX”, “Tron blockchain”, “Tron crypto”, “Justin Sun Tron” or related queries.
However, Google Trends shows that searches for “Tron TRX” outperformed “Tron movie” throughout most of 2019.
Disney’s lawyers not only claimed that Sun’s registration for “TRON” would damage their franchise but also noted the way in which the tech startup was using the name.
“TRON Marks in all capital letters in a font/stylization that is highly similar in appearance to the unique and distinctive font/stylization of [Disney’s] TRON Marks.”
Jake Chervinsky, counsel at Compound, tweeted the graphic styling of Disney’s TRON and Sun’s TRON.
I'll spare everyone the primer on US trademark law. Just take a look at this and you'll get what's going on here (from page 15 of Disney's Opposition to Tron's trademark applications): pic.twitter.com/FTo6n8VHbf
— Jake Chervinsky (@jchervinsky) December 20, 2019
Mati Greenspan, CEO at Quantum Economics and former eToro senior market analyst weighs in on why Justin Sun’s Tron did not file a response to the USPTO after Disney submitted their objection to the applications.
“To be fair, Disney probably has a better claim to the name Tron. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason they let it lapse was simply because they had no case to begin with—perhaps they were just trying their luck.”
Chervinsky suggests Sun’s Tron may be facing bigger problems.
“Tron gave up its half-hearted attempt to register trademarks in the US after Disney filed a strong Opposition alleging dilution & brand confusion. This might not be the end, though. If Disney’s serious about this, they could take Tron to court in a trademark infringement suit.”