Time for a teen years confession.
For about two years, starting on August 25, 1997, my life had about four principal components: sleep, eat, school, GoldenEye. For the uninitiated, GoldenEye was a first-person shooter video game for the Nintendo 64, based on the James Bond film of the same name. And it. Was. Awesome. Widely regarded as one of the most successful, beloved, and influential video games of all time, GoldenEye helped prove that pale, unathletic teenagers and drunken frat boys had more in common than they ever previously dreamed — a shared joy incartoonishly shooting their friends in the face.
Playing GoldenEye was its own reward, and I never expected any remuneration for those long, sleepness nights spent playing the game, devouring Oreos by the handful, and listening to Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life album on repeat (also all true). But it seems I am, in fact, due a “thank you” card from a little-known company called Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen. That company — better known simply as Walther — manufactures the PPK pistol, best known as James Bond’s weapon of choice. And no doubt thanks in part to the efforts of obsessive gamers like myself, last month Walther received a rare product configuration trademark from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board for the design of its iconic gun.
That’s right: the shape of this gun is now a registered trademark.
Traditionally, trademark protection is accorded to company and product names, logos, and slogans. Kodak — a company name. CyberShot — a product line. “The Best a Man Can Get” — a slogan. The distinctive green-rimmed Starbucks logo. In other words, all of the obvious signifiers of the source of a product or service. So the idea that a product can be its own trademark is definitely unintuitive. Luckily for Walther, though, the company hired lawyers. And as any lawyer will tell you, the law cares very little for your wounded intuition.