McLegal News

Robin Williams returns to TV this fall with a CBS sitcom called “The Crazy Ones.”  Williams and Sarah Michele Gellar  play a father and daughter who own an advertising company.  The first episode features their efforts to retain the McDonalds ccount.  Here’s an interesting piece from Ad Age.  In case you were wondering when a TV show can and can’t use a product or a brand, the Ad Age piece provides a pretty decent explanation.  And the answer is, that an entertainment vehicle, as opposed to a commercial, had pretty free rein.  In the case of McDonalds and “The Crazy Ones” the show’s producers decided to get permission from the fast food chain – especially given the story’s arc, which involves Kelly Clarkson, a new jingle and sex.  But that was probably what we lawyers call “an abundance of caution.”  Given that the use of a product in a TV show, movie, book etc. is not a “use in commerce” there’s no trademark protection.  About the only claim available would be a “trade libel”  and that is virtually impossible to establish in this context.  But you can’t blame the show’s producers for being careful.  And McDonald’s gets a 30 minute free commercial.  No doubt “they’re lovin’ it.”