San Diego – The American Humane Association (AHA) has threatened legal action against the producers of the academy-award winning movie “The King’s Speech”. The film’s credits used the phrase “No animals were harmed” referring to the treatment of Corgi dogs that appeared in the movie. According to the AHA, this is in violation of its trademark rights because it owns a certification trademark to that phase, see: No Animals Were Harmed trademark.
The animal rights group has been involved with the movie industry for years, acting as advocate for animals used in films. It demands to be present whenever animals are being used and require advanced copies of scripts for review before permitting any animals to be involved. The “King’s Speech”, however, never asked the group to monitor the animals in its film.
Emile Sherman, producer of the blockbuster hit, responded in a written statement by saying, “As an independent UK production we were unaware that this phrase had a certification mark and any implication that the American Humane Association was involved in our UK production was unintentional”. In the past, the AHA has sent out cease and desist letters to film producers and distributors over use of the phrase but has yet to take anyone to court over it.
The AHA is asking the production company to remove the phrase from its credits. Karen Rosa, vice president of the film & television unit at the AHA stated, “We are in conversation with them and hope to work something out”. When asked whether the film can simply change the phrasing, Rosa responded, “It depends on how close the language is. If there’s any implication of an endorsement, it could still cause confusion”.
In our opinion, “No Animals Were Harmed” is a very descriptive trademark and thus it is not that strong. We could envision it being challenged by a movie studio in the future, but who would want the bad publicity?