Many people in New Jersey have seen the famous “Honey Badger” video on YouTube. Since the “Honey Badger Don’t Care” catchphrase in the video has been widely referenced in a variety of media, it could come as a surprise that the phrase may have federal trademark protection. A federal appeals court overturned a judgment by a lower court in August 2018, reinstating a lawsuit filed by the video’s creator against a greeting card publisher.
The video garnered millions of views on YouTube after being posted by its founder. It includes footage of a honey badger seeking out food by attacking poisonous snakes and other larger, more dangerous animals. The video’s creator delivers a sarcastic commentary over the footage. The video’s phrases and images were later included in television shows and social media memes. Even Louisiana State University football player Tyrann Mathieu was given the nickname “Honey Badger.” After the video went viral, the creator copyrighted his narration with the title “Honey Badger Don’t Care.” In October 2011, he began applying for trademarks for the phrase to apply to different types of goods.
Papyrus-Recycled, a subsidiary of large greeting card manufacturer American Greetings, began producing its own honey badger greeting cards in June 2012 without any interaction with or license from the video’s creator. The video creator filed a trademark lawsuit in federal court, citing the Lanham Act. The original district court dismissed the lawsuit, but that decision was overturned by an appeals court panel of three judges. The appeals court said that rather than making a new use of the phrase, the greeting card companies had “pasted” the trademark on their products.
Intellectual property is one of the most essential assets of many prominent businesses, especially amid the rise of the digital era. Entrepreneurs may want to protect their work by consulting with an trademark law attorney to protect their intellectual property and copyrights.