On Tuesday, Frederick Zaccheo, founder of the non-profit charity The Dinosaur Project, filed suit against the creators of Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom in the Southern District of New York. Zaccheo alleges that Universal City Studios and Amblin Entertainment committed breach of contract and trademark infringement relating to their use of the phrase SAVE THE DINOS in the film’s marketing materials. The phrase is a registered trademark belonging to Mr. Zaccheo, who sells SAVE THE DINOS apparel to raise money for various endangered wildlife charities through The Dinosaur Project.
Zaccheo was approached by Universal’s legal counsel in the summer of 2017 and granted the filmmakers permission to use the phrase in the movie. However, in order to avoid brand confusion, the contract specified that the phrase would always be used “in conjunction with other branding associated with the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World franchise.” The filmmakers were also barred from using the phrase as a source identifier for any “charitable, environmental, animal rights, or endangered species” causes.
Zaccheo argues that the filmmakers violated both of these preconditions for using his trademarked phrase. First, they began selling apparel that included only the words SAVE THE DINOS, without any other branding to make clear that the phrase was being used in connection to the film. Second, the film’s viral marketing campaign heavily employed the phrase in advertising materials featuring a fictional organization called the Dinosaur Protection Group, devoted to saving endangered dinosaurs.
As in most trademark disputes, Zaccheo is worried about brand confusion. The concern here is two-fold: consumers may have been wrongly led to believe that the SAVE THE DINOSAURS merchandise sold by Universal was affiliated with The Dinosaur Project because it contained no Jurassic World branding that would indicate otherwise. Alternatively, the use of the phrase in connection with the fictional Dinosaur Protection Group may, by “reverse confusion,” make consumers think that Zaccheo’s real organization is just another figment of the film’s marketing campaign. Zaccheo is asking for $10 million in damages.
Alex Van Dyke is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2021).