Who owns Christmas?

Have you seen that Christmas TV ad with the moon and the telescope? No, not the John Lewis advert, the Aldi parody that’s also hitting the headlines.  While the creative ‘budget’ take on the most-talked about advert of the season is not judged to be a breach of copyright due to the ‘fair dealing’ exception rule, it has got us talking about the concept of Christmas ownership.

The first watch of the festive John Lewis ad has an eagerly anticipated Christmas tradition for many. In their extravagant annual advert production, John Lewis is undoubtedly attempting to claim some ownership of the Christmas period. Another much-awaited production is the Christmas Coca-Cola advert and the company’s very particular shade of red and Santa’s costume has also come to be associated with Christmas in consumer’s minds.

You might think that Santa Claus is everyone’s favourite postman and the use of the jolly man’s name could well be considered to be in the public domain. After all, it is displayed on Christmas cards, woolly jumpers and just about everywhere else over the Christmas Period.

However, Father Christmas is registered as a trademark by a number of companies for various goods and services, including one EU trademark registration (CTM009776493) covering ‘providing an on-line retail store, or shop, connected with the sale of stationery, apparel, and music and video products’.

At least Santa is not in risk of infringing this trademark registration by delivering CDs and DVDs down our chimneys. However, if he decides to modernize his delivery methods by setting up a website then he will need to take care, although he could run an ‘own name’ defence in response to any infringement action.

‘Santa Claus’ is also a popular trademark, with 28 marks found on the UK and EU registers.

One expired registration of the mark (UK00000252818) dating from 1903 covers ‘biscuits and cakes for animals’, which was presumably to cover Reindeer treats?

Aside from trademarks, copyright is an issue for all seasons.

Whilst you’re thinking about the traditional image of Santa, you may want to think about any photographs of the kids and Santa that were included in any meet and greets set up at places like your local shopping centre.

You may own that particular photograph but if you weren’t the photographer, then you won’t own the copyright for the photo itself, so will technically infringe the photographers copyright if you reproduce it.

Moving on to the sounds of Christmas, festive songs are big money-spinners for their copyright owners, who frequently find their songs used on film soundtracks or covered by other artists. Of course, that’s all in addition to enjoying seasonal sales renaissances on paid download platforms such as iTunes.

Ownership can prove very lucrative and there’s consequently copyright controversy surrounding the much-loved Christmas track Santa Claus is coming to town.

So it can be seen that in the IP world Christmas is a time of goodwill to all… apart from anyone infringing festive IP rights!

But ‘where are the Christmas patents?’ you may ask. Check out our previous post on the top ten Christmas inventions? We’re confident you’ll uncover something you’ve not seen before – all without a telescope.