Steve Carell's return to comedic series television, Space Force, just debuted on Netflix at the end of May, but while she show has been popular among viewers, critical responses were not that great, and the show already seems to be facing a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to securing Season 2. Unfortunately, that's not the only battle that's brewing for the new comedy, as the U.S. government's actual new military branch, also named Space Force as you will probably know, is now looking to shut down some aspects of the show.
While fans of the comedy need not worry about the show overall when it comes to our real U.S. Space Force, as the First Amendment protects parody and satire as forms of free speech. But, according to Military.com, the government has taken issue with the potential licensing of branded merchandise sales for the Steve Carell starrer, and is seeking to secure trademark licensing for the sixth branch of the military.
The U.S. Space Force operates under the Department of the Air Force, and spokeswoman Lynn Kirby confirmed the department's move to trademark Space Force, noting:
The Department of the Air Force has applied for trademark registrations for the Space Force mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and has common law rights to the word mark and other Space Force intellectual property. 'U.S. Space Force' is the name of a government entity and may not be misrepresented as an official endorsement, nor its marks used on commercial products without a valid trademark license. As an equal branch in the Department of Defense, U.S. Space Force marks are afforded the same legal protections as those of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard.
For those unaware, the name and general concept for the Netflix series, which was created by Carell and Greg Daniels (who worked together on the long-running NBC hit The Office), came about in light of the president announcing plans for another military branch in 2018. By mid-January 2019 the streamer had given a straight-to-series order to Space Force, which focuses on Carell's four-star Air Force General as he uproots his family after being tasked with running the new branch, and the home life / workplace antics which ensue.
Most television shows which gain significant popularity end up selling merchandise of some sort. And, it’s there that the government wants to be able to make sure that anything trademarked Space Force is actually referring to the official branch of the military and not the streaming comedy. While the Air Force is taking steps now to make sure that happens, they may have actually taken action a bit late, which could signal a big problem for them.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix started to submit trademark applications for the term ‘Space Force’ beginning as early as January 2019, when news went public about the show’s series order. What’s more is that those applications weren’t just filed in the United States, but in several countries around the world. Our country has what’s called a “first-to-use” trademark registration policy, meaning that priority is generally given to those who have actually already used the phrase they’re trying to trademark for commerce. But, many other countries have a “first-to-file” system that gives such priority to, you got it, those who simply get their paperwork done first. So, the Air Force is at a serious disadvantage there.
In case you’re wondering, the Department of Defense isn’t picking on Space Force, as it’s been known to instigate trademark infringement warnings or lawsuits when officials feel conditions merit such action. For instance, the Army filed a notice of opposition against an NHL team in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights, back in 2017, for using the name of the Army's elite parachute unit and having similar branding. Even though they've gotten a slow start on getting a trademark for Space Force, at least this should stop any action having to be taken after the fact.