The "Maxed Out" issue involves determining if the creator of the documentary movie "Maxed Out" should expect to confront a trademark infringement claim under the Lanham Act concerning the use of the title.
TRUEWORKS is an independent production company specializing in non-fiction films. Their most recent project is a feature-length documentary written and directed by James D. Scurlock entitled “Maxed Out.” The film explores the effects and consequences of America’s debt culture and the “predatory practices” of the financial industry and debt collectors. The film has been shown at several national and international film festivals and has garnered rave reviews. “Maxed Out” recently won the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 South by Southwest.
The US- based cable channel Style network has acquired a series also named “Maxed Out” from Australia's Beyond Distribution. The television show, produced by RTR Media, is a “reality series” which pairs people that feel overwhelmed with debt with a “money coach’ that dispenses “tell-it-like-it-is” advice. The show is designed to be entertaining and financially informative. “Maxed Out” the television program is currently playing in regular rotation on the Style network.
In exploring whether or not TRUEWORKS and James D. Scurlock need be concerned, I have identified three main issues that I am investigating.
1. Is the "Maxed Out" title eligible for Protection?
2. If the title is eligible for protection, who owns the mark?
3. Assuming television program "Maxed Out" is eligible for protection and is the the senior mark, does TRUEWORKS and James D. Scurlock's use of the title infringe RTR Media's mark?