Whether it’s in comic books, television or on the big screen, Marvel’s Venom has long been one of the most popular supervillains among fans. The alien bad guy usually faces off against Spider-Man, but it’s Spyder Active Sports that’s giving him problems these days. Marvel has filed a trademark opposition TTAB case against Spyder Active Sports’ trademark application for VENOM, so their “spidey sense” should be in overdrive.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has reached impressive heights, and a large part of this popularity comes directly from Spider-Man. Of course, Peter Parker is nothing without a few supervillains. And when it comes to impressive foes, Marvel’s Venom has no equal. The character showed up in comic books in 1984 – over a decade before Spyder Active Sports used the VENOM trademark.
Of course, Spyder Active Sports entered their own world of Venom long before Marvel became the industry titan it is today. Their Venom collection is linked to their relationship with Team Venom – a group that includes the “Founding Fathers” of freeskiing. It seems apparent that their use of the trademark isn’t connected to Marvel’s Venom, but this won’t necessarily save them.
Marvel Characters’ Notice of Opposition to Spyder’s application claims priority use over the Venom brand along with the potential for consumer confusion. They’ve requested that the USPTO deny Spyder’s application in order to avoid confusion and prevent possible damage to Marvel’s brand.
Whether the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board grants Marvel’s request to refuse Spyder’s registration will depend on if the former can prove a likelihood of confusion. While the brand could have filed a case based on trademark dilution – claiming that their brand would suffer damage through tarnishment or blurring – their filing focuses squarely on consumer confusion.
This means they’ll need to show that Spyder’s use of the trademark is likely to cause confusion with Marvel’s Venom. The supervillain is obviously a fictional character, but it has found itself on clothing products for years. And since Venom 2 merchandise just recently hit the market, Marvel understandably wants to protect its ability to profit.
An important question in this case involves whether consumers would confuse attire promoting a skiing team with products featuring an alien that constantly tries to destroy Spider-Man. It may seem improbable that Marvel’s Venom would get confused in this situation.
As with many cases that come before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, it’s hard to predict the eventual outcome of this case until the parties go through the discovery process. While there’s no denying that the trademarks are identical, the question still remains of whether consumers would confuse an activewear brand with anything in the Marvel Universe.
Of course, an argument could be made that the use of the trademark in conjunction with the name “Spyder” may cause confusion with Marvel’s Venom. After all, most people first encountered the monster alongside Peter Parker in Spider-Man. Spyder Active Sports has until January 2 to file an answer with the TTAB, and that’s when we’ll get a better grasp on the case.
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