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Sesame Street Loses Trademark Lawsuit Over 'Bad' Muppet Movie

By George Khoury, Esq. on June 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The visionary non-profit behind 'Sesame Street,' Sesame Workshop, is likely plush with disappointment, both over its loss in court, and over the Streisand effect caused by the lawsuit it filed against the makers of the upcoming 'The Happytime Murders' movie.

That upcoming film is something a little different than what you'd expect from a puppet-centric film. For one, it's R rated. It also features Jim Henson-style Muppets (sorry Velcro) behaving badly. The filmmakers, which include Jim Henson's son, advertised the film with the following tagline: "No Sesame. All Street." And as a result of that tagline, and other factors, the Sesame Workshop sued to enjoin the film from tarnishing the good 'Sesame Street' name.

And the way it played out is nothing short of a great lesson for children, and lawyers, of all ages.

No Puppet Restraining Order

As reported by Above the Law, the federal district court did not find cause to grant a temporary restraining order preventing the The Happytime Murders from using the tagline.

Sesame Workshop had argued that the line "No Sesame. All Street." essentially traded on its goodwill and was likely to confuse consumers into believing the film is related or sanctioned by Sesame Workshop. The court did not agree. In fact, in ruling on the TRO, the court explained that the tagline actually clearly disclaimed association with Sesame Street, albeit in a "humorous, pithy way."

TRO or Go Home

After the TRO was denied, Sesame Workshop dismissed the entire case. The minds behind The Happytime Murders seemed to take the whole challenge in stride, which likely helped the film's public image and marketing, as well as helped convince the Sesame Workshop to drop the entire matter after losing the TRO. The film released a public statement from its muppet-lawyer Fred, Esq., and seemed ready to lean in to the lawsuit to ride that "any publicity is good publicity" wave.

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