Colliding Trademark Particles?: Big Brain Theory and Big Bang Theory

by Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
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Amidst the ugly so-called “spring” weather we’ve been having here in Minnesota, I was watching The Discovery Channel the other night and saw a promo for this new show.

The show is hosted by Kal Penn of House and Harold and Kumar fame (and incidentally also has had an on-again, off-again stint as the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement for the Obama administration). The promo begins with Mr. Penn in front of an American flag saying “Some say the USA is no longer the home of innovation. If you believe that, you should shut your stupid face.” And then stuff gets blown up in the desert. America! Woo!

The premise of The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius appears to be similar to “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “Chopped,” “Project Runway” and other last man standing reality TV competitions, only for the engineering crowd. Each week, teams compete to design a solution to an engineering challenge, which is then judged by a panel, and the team with the best concept is safe for the week. The show is reminiscent of many engineers’ design project classes in college; I certainly think it would be a blast (probably literally and figuratively) to get some of my engineer friends together and compete on this.

Shows like that may generate or exploit some inventive concept always raise IP questions for me regarding the patentability and ownership of any such concepts presented therein. However, I was surprised by the striking similarities in name and visual identity for this new show to one of my favorite (and highly rated) shows on CBS:

This is certainly reminiscent of Desperate Housewives and the reality TV show spin-off The Real Housewives of Orange County (and other related series), which used similar names and a similar visual identity (see here and here). I would expect that there has been a similar collaboration here. As of April 16, 2013, there were no trademark filings for THE BIG BRAIN THEORY, although to date many of The Discovery Channel’s new shows did not have trademark filings for their names either. I wouldn’t doubt that The Big Brain Theory reality TV show wishes to trade on the widespread popularity of The Big Bang Theory comedy show in order to appeal to a broader audience. Given the similarities in the wording and the black-and-red visual identity, the shows likely have some relationship, but it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

I wonder how well Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj would do as a team on The Discovery Channel’s The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius show. My bet would be that Sheldon would be the house villain, the team would rely on Howard’s engineering skills for practical application of physics principles, and Leonard would meet some girl on the show but pine for Penny back at home.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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