The Minnesota History Center is currently promoting its Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s exhibit — my favorite promotional billboard is the one captured above, featuring none other than Gumby.
I can still remember my Gumby toy and watching the Gumby Show as a young child along with the Davey & Goliath television series, both creations of Art Clokey (who passed away at 88 in 2010).
The programs were so perfectly wholesome, making the anthropomorphic Gumby character the natural target of an iconic series of R-rated Saturday Night Live parody skits featuring a young and hilarious Eddie Murphy as Gumby, a “cigar-smoking show business primadonna,” who coined the infamous and often repeated catchphrase: I’m Gumby Dammit!
The Gumby trademark — bolstered in strength, if not fame, by the character’s status as a long-lasting pop culture phenomenon — has enjoyed a similar exclamation of self-confidence and apparent, well-deserved respect from others over the years, as the brand’s owner Prema Toy has had virtually no trademark oppositions (one for footwear averted with a little help from an Examining Attorney), at least as it appears from the USPTO’s online TTAB database. This third party application for Gumby’s Pizza, was most likely brought into the fold, as detailed below.
The GUMBY word mark is still federally-registered in Int’l Classes 9 (DVDs), 16 (paper products), 25 (clothing), 28 (toys), 41 (entertainment services), and Gumby’s is also federally-registered in Int’l Classes 30 and 42, since Gumby’s Pizza & Wings is a restaurant franchise offered by Prema Toy. I figured there would be non-verbal product configuration trademark registrations for the appearance of the Gumby character too, but nope, nope, nope, only two dimensional depictions (here, here, and here).
Notwithstanding the fact that the only federally-registered marks consisting of or including the GUMBY word are owned by Prema Toy, this once singular trademark meaning of GUMBY recently has been threatened by a hightech software firm called Digital Surgeons who have dubbed one of their products with the so-called GUMBY FRAMEWORK trademark for ”software development tools for the creation of mobile internet applications and client interfaces.” Their application was published for opposition last summer, and there is no record of Prema Toy opposing or seeking an extension of time to oppose, and once Digitial Surgeons submits evidence of use, the registration should issue.
Digital Surgeons is currently promoting GUMBY 2.6, as a flexible, responsive CSS framework — powered by Sass: “Now more flexible than ever.” So, the Digital Surgeons have drawn their scalpels to clearly play on at least the meaning behind the iconic Gumby character, perhaps explaining this statement on the bottom of their website:
“Disclaimer: Gumby Framework holds no affiliation or association with our friends at www.gumbyworld.com, Primavision Inc. or Prema Toy Inc.”
Since the Digital Surgeons are apparently friends with the folks at Prema Toy, perhaps the disclaimer is enough to satisfy the brand owner, assuming they are aware of the use and pending application for federal registration.
So, if you were responsible for the GUMBY brand, how flexible would you consider it to be, and would you easily bend on this encroachment? Why?
If a flexible approach is adopted to permit unrelated brands that play on the bendable meaning associated with the GUMBY brand and character, will it lead to others, eventually taking the GUMBY brand into a very different posture and position? Would it make a difference to you to know that the Prema in Prema Toy means “heart” in Sanskrit?
Oh, and in case you’re wondering where Gumby’s best pony pal Pokey is, it appears that he doesn’t hold the same status as Gumby, since Pokey’s registrations have lapsed (here and here).