What’s the News?
The producer of popular Netflix television series “House of Cards” has been sued in federal court on claims of trademark infringement for its use of the trademark HOUSE OF CARDS. See D2 Holdings LLC v. MRC II Distribution Co., L.P., et al. 1:16CV10453 (D. Mass. March 3, 2016). The plaintiff, D2 Holdings LLC, and its predecessor-in-interest have owned a federal registration for HOUSE OF CARDS since 2007, years before the popular political drama of the same name aired in 2013. While defendant MRC II Distribution Company L.P. has been using the title “House of Cards” since the show first aired, the company recently licensed several entities to use the mark “HOUSE OF CARDS” on various products, including slot machines and clothing items – a decision that led D2 to file suit.
More on the Lawsuit
In 2013, Netflix aired the hit television series “House of Cards,” a political drama featuring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. The show became an immediate success, receiving widespread critical acclaim. Defendant MRC, the show’s producer, sought to register the trademark HOUSE OF CARDS on three separate occasions – twice for use in connection with the television show, and a third time for five classes of goods, including computer game programs, calendars, posters, tote bags, mugs, and tee shirts. Each time, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) refused MRC’s applications on the basis of D2’s existing registration for the identical mark.
D2 is an intellectual property holding company that currently licenses the HOUSE OF CARDS mark to a third-party company for use in connection with a poker-related radio broadcasts and associated merchandise. D2’s predecessor-in-interest first registered the HOUSE OF CARDS mark in 2007 for various entertainment services, including television shows “featuring games of chance and poker” and an “on-going radio program in the field of gaming and poker.” D2 also owns a pending application for the same mark covering “hats, tee shirts, and bumper stickers,” claiming to have used the mark on such goods since 2008.
D2 complains that, despite MRC’s failure to register the mark, MRC “continues to act as though it owns the HOUSE OF CARDS mark by engaging in unauthorized licensing and use.” In particular, D2 notes that MRC recently licensed the mark for use by third parties. According to the complaint, MRC has licensed the mark to one company for use on casino games and slot machines, and to other companies for use on merchandise such as tee shirts and hats. D2 asserts that MRC’s actions violate its rights in the HOUSE OF CARDS mark, stating that MRC may not license the mark without its permission. Accordingly, D2 recently filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleging claims of trademark infringement and dilution, as well as violations of Massachusetts’ state unfair competition laws. D2 has asked the court for actual and punitive damages, as well as an injunction barring MRC or any affiliates or licensees from using the HOUSE OF CARDS mark in any manner that suggests a connection with D2 or its licensees.
In the coming months, we will see if MRC decides to fight D2’s claims of infringement, or instead attempts to reach a settlement agreement under which the litigants’ simultaneous use of the HOUSE OF CARDS mark can coexist.
Arent Fox is monitoring this issue and will post updates as we learn of them. Please contact Anthony V. Lupo, Amy E. Salomon, or Thorne Maginnis with questions.