The Obama’s named their production company “Higher Ground” after a Stevie Wonder song. When they went to trademark the name, they realized someone else had already snagged it.
A woman by the name of Hanisya Massey is the owner of “Higher Grounds” in Covina, California. It’s a company that offers computer training to folks, and she’s had the business for 10 years now.
However, all of that may come crashing down, after Massey ran head-first into the powerful Obama duo, who are now threatening to wipe her trademark completely off the map, and destroy her company in the process.
Hanisya Massey, the owner of Higher Ground Enterprises in Covina, Calif., first heard from a lawyer for Higher Ground Productions early this summer.
Barack and Michelle Obama wanted to trademark their company’s name, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office had deemed it too similar to the mark Ms. Massey registered in 2017 for her computer training company. Higher Ground Productions was looking to strike a deal.
So began the dispute, which escalated from an initial note sent by the Obamas’ lawyer to requests by Ms. Massey for onscreen roles in their productions and, now, an attempt by the former president and first lady’s company to have Ms. Massey’s trademark wiped off the books. [New York Times]
In the beginning, the two groups tried to come to an agreement over the trademark dispute. Ms. Massey came up with a proposal to sell the trademark that included “bit appearances” in the Obama’s TV and film productions for Netflix.
Ms. Massey says she was not looking to “star” in anything, it was more like, “Can I get a bit part in something?” After all, she is from California – a place where everyone is an undercover actor.
The Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions has successfully found resolutions with other similar trademark holders, the company’s trademark lawyer, Jim Vana, said in a statement. But with Ms. Massey’s company, the Obamas have hit a snag.
Ms. Massey and her lawyer, Larry Zerner, came back with a proposal to sell the mark — in exchange for what Mr. Vana called “significant demands,” including appearances in the Obamas’ TV and film productions.
Ms. Massey referred all questions about proposed terms to her lawyer, who confirmed that acting roles for Ms. Massey were part of her suggested deal. [New York Times]
However, the Obama’s didn’t appreciate that request and decided they had no further interest in working with Ms. Massey.
The powerful duo quickly moved to cancel Ms. Massey’s entire trademark petition; a very time-consuming “fact intensive” process that could take years (and lots of money for Ms. Massey) to sort out.
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A few weeks ago Higher Ground Productions filed a petition to cancel Ms. Massey’s trademark. Rebecca Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor and an expert in intellectual property law, said in an interview that the goal of this move would be to determine whether Ms. Massey is actively and regularly using the trademark to conduct business. The Obamas’ filing starts a fact-intensive inquiry that could take years to sort out.
“If there’s not sufficient use of the mark, then the registrant has no rights and the Obamas can go ahead,” Ms. Tushnet said. If there is sufficient use, she added, Ms. Massey could have a potential trademark infringement claim. [New York Times]
Ms Massey told the New York Times that what the Obama’s are doing could literally “ruin” her business.
“It could definitely hurt my business severely,” Ms. Massey said. “Because if you Google this, this is the only thing that comes up. And I am pretty much a little needle in the haystack at this point.”
So much for the “little guy” eh?
Apparently, if you stand in the way of the Obama’s progress, or don’t take whatever crumbs they throw at you, they will steamroll right over you and destroy your livelihood in the process.
If the Obama’s aren’t the textbook definition of “liberal elite,” I don’t know what is.