Will the US Space Force lose a trademark battle with... Netflix?

It’s not a coincidence that the newest branch of our military, the United States Space Force, was rolling out at roughly the same time that Netflix began developing their own comedy series named Space Force, starring Steve Carrell. It was a natural topic for the development of such a show, particularly during a time when so much of the mainstream media has been dabbling in the subject of UFOs and space movies are making a big comeback. But trouble may be brewing for our new military branch and it’s not in the form of aliens taking out our satellites. They’re getting caught up in a trademark war.

As it turns out, the Netflix show began putting in applications for trademarks around the globe at the beginning of last year. It gives them the right to control the name in terms of selling merchandise and other marketing schemes. But the military likes to sell their own merch for the various branches of the armed services and Space Force will be no exception. Except they didn’t file for their first trademark until later in the year and they never applied in Europe or elsewhere. So has Netflix won the war before the first laser bolt has been fired? (Gizmodo)

The real Space Force may be going down in flames against the fictional Space Force: According to the Hollywood Reporter, the newly founded military branch appears to be losing a trademark battle with the Netflix comedy show of the same name.

Netflix “has outmaneuvered the U.S. government to secure trademark rights to ‘Space Force’ in Europe, Australia, Mexico and elsewhere,” according to the Reporter, while the Air Force—under which the Space Force is organized—simply has a pending application stateside. This mostly has ramifications for merch. Consumers won’t have trouble discerning between the military branch and Space Force when it comes to which one stars Steve Carrell, but they might not be able to tell who is selling a line of Space Force shirts.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office relies on a “first-to-use” system when assigning rights, and Netflix has been submitting trademark applications for the Space Force across the globe since the start of 2019.

Under that “first-to-use” system, the real Space Force may be in trouble. Not only did they file their application later than Netflix, but they didn’t become an official military branch until last December. By then Netflix was already in production and selling t-shirts and all the rest of the usual show merchandise. But what if the US Space Force starts selling t-shirts, hats and all of the stuff that the other branches already market? (I checked their website this morning and there’s no merchandise or memorabilia page yet.) Would Netflix actually have the solid brass cojones to sue the military over trademark infringement?

Of course, the Space Force has gotten off to a rocky start in terms of brand identify pretty much from day one. Remember that when the new flag for the branch was unfolded during an Oval Office ceremony? It got stuck just for a moment at an unfortunate point and the resulting screen capture set #UFOTwitter abuzz immediately. Here’s the video of the event.

And now here’s the screen capture of the key moment in case you missed it. Observe the exposed letters toward the right side of the flag. (Click for full-size image.)

The flag seemed to snag just when the letters “UFO” were revealed. Was it an unfortunate accident or was the Pentagon trying to send us a subtle message about what the Space Force is really up to? Each of you can be the judge of that as you see fit. As for me, I’m not saying it’s aliens… but it’s definitely aliens.