The recently-launched Netflix comedy series “Space Force,” a satirical portrayal of the military’s newest branch starring Steve Carell, may have debuted to mixed reviews, but that hasn’t stopped Netflix from getting out in front of the U.S. military in its chase to trademark the show’s name.
As it currently stands, Netflix has secured global trademark rights for “Space Force” in numerous regions throughout the globe, including Australia, Mexico, and all over Europe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Applications submitted by Netflix reportedly date back as far as January 2019.
The only efforts made by the Department of Defense, meanwhile, have come in the form of a trademark registration application with an intent to use in the U.S. — and that remains pending, the report said.
Realistically, the only area where this could become problematic is in the sale of memorabilia, apparel, or other items featuring the term. Even if the Defense Department were to attain the trademark of “Space Force,” current U.S. law does not prevent use of identical terms if employed as a parody.
Recent trademark disputes undertaken by the U.S. armed forces have centered on outside use of military symbols and imagery, in which cases the Defense Department issues the following guidance:
“In accordance with subpart 2635.702 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (Reference (i)), DoD marks may not be licensed for use in a manner that creates a perception of DoD endorsement of any non-federal entity or its products and services. DoD marks may not be licensed for any purpose intended to promote ideological movements, sociopolitical change, religious beliefs (including non-belief), specific interpretations of morality, or legislative/statutory change. ...”
In 2019, Christian jewelry company Shields of Strength was told by Marine Corps officials to cease production of Bible verse dog tags featuring an engraving of the Marines’ Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem.
As of publication, however, the company is still selling dog tags featuring Army and Air Force logos.
Two years ago, sportswear giant Nike announced the cancellation of a new clothing line following outrage over the striking resemblance of the line’s logo to the Naval Academy’s crest.
The now defunct soccer line, “The Fives,” had been planned as a collaboration between Nike and the Los Angeles-based apparel company, Undefeated. Had the line’s launch not been scuttled, the Office of Naval Research was reportedly prepared to send Nike a trademark infringement warning.
While the sixth service branch and Netflix series are only linked by name, the Hollywood Reporter pointed to President Donald Trump’s history as a businessman as a potential catalyst for future trademark battles. The president, after all, was instrumental in the creation of the cosmos-centric branch and would likely be invested in ensuring its profitability.
Still, a U.S. Air Force spokesperson told THR that the service is "not aware of any trademark conflicts with the fictional program Space Force produced by Netflix.”
“We wish Netflix and the show’s producers the best in their creative depiction of our nation’s newest branch of the military.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.