Do you know why, when watching certain television talk shows, you often see mysterious "grayed-out" blurs over, for example, the logo on a character's T-shirt? NBC does.
By now, several years into the age of TiVo
The graying out of certain products illustrates the flip side of paying a network to feature your product -- call it "product masking" as opposed to product placement. On Monday, we saw an example of what happens when a network fails to "mask" the product of one of its sponsors' competitors -- it opens itself up to charges of trademark infringement and unfair competition. In particular, Emerson Electric
Alleging everything from trademark infringement to "irreparably tarnishing" the In-Sink-Erator's reputation by casting it "in an unsavory light," Emerson demanded that NBC be barred from rebroadcasting the episode -- a demand that could disrupt the network's plans to run the series in syndication and summer reruns. Emerson also demanded that NBC stop using its trademarks and destroy all materials in which they are used.
Why all the fuss, you ask? Don't networks depict trademarked products all the time, and not always after seeking permission to do so? Sure. Because U.S. intellectual property law does permit the "fair use" of trademarked materials. The problem here is that Emerson thinks GE's use was unfair. And I can't blame Emerson for thinking so.
In contrast with peer broadcasters like CBS
Which is exactly what it got.
Read all about the lighter side of product placement in:
- Jack Bauer's New Sugar Daddy
- And Now, a Plot Line From Your Sponsor
- In Case of Emergency, Break Rules
- Toyota for President