After seeing Iron Man 2 this week, I felt compelled to speak out about the misinformation propagated by Pepper Potts. During a scene in which Tony comes into Pepper’s office, we overhear Pepper talking to an unidentified party about the suit. In the conversation (which I am editing to avoid spoiling it for anyone who went to see Robin Hood this weekend instead), Ms. Potts repeatedly references the intellectual property right in the suit being based on trademark law. My beef? It is clear from the story line, that the issue is one of patent law, not trademark.
Trademarks generally serve two purposes: 1) to provide consumers with an assurance as to the source of goods or services; and 2) to protect the value that a business receives from creating and marketing a product. Patents, on the other hand, are intended to protect inventors by giving them the sole ability to utilize or license their creations. While the suit could serve as a trademark for Tony Stark’s services as a super hero, it should be clear to anyone that has seen the movie that the discussion in question was more properly framed as an issue of patent law.
Am I being nit-picky? Well . . . Yes. But as a copyright and trademark attorney, Pepper’s lack of understanding ruined the entire film for me – or at least it distracted me for 5-10 seconds.