We were just having a discussion whether Lush's naming of a mouthwash as "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster" is benefiting from the popularity of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, which led to the intellectual property concerns behind this. My two questions are: 1. Could the Adams estate legally challenge Lush in any way, for use of this name? 2. Would Lush be able trademark the name, given they are actually trading a product with that name?

I'm in the UK, but I'm sort of interested whether there are any interesting interactions of this sort between IPR law and products in works of fiction anywhere in the world.

  • 1
    Funny thing: Douglas Adams liked the name of an estate agency and asked for permission to use it for a minor character at The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. After the book was released, the agency had to cope with some citizens that accused them of stealing Adam's character name. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – SJuan76
    Feb 21 '17 at 17:25
  • Someone appears to have trademarked Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.
    – MichaelK
    Sep 15 '17 at 10:39

If there is a risk that the use of "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster" can cause confusion in the consumer that the product is in some way related to, produced by or endorsed by the owners of the IP (the owners) in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when it isn't then this is a trade mark infringement.

The key point here is that it is extremely likely that Lush has an agreement with the owners, in which case this is perfectly fine.

Absent such an agreement the owners could shut it down and sue Lush for an accounting of profits or other damages.

Notwithstanding, Lush could not register a trade mark as they are not the original user of the trade mark.

  • 3
    Under U.S. law, there were be a cause of action under the Lanham act for creating consumer confusion or to cancel the mark in this situation, but it wouldn't be a "trade mark infringement" claim because the name of a product in the book is not itself a trademark.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 21 '17 at 17:40

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