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DC wrestles with ‘Superman Workout’ trademark in Australia court

Part of the "superman workout," apparently

DC Comics has taken its objections over a “Superman Workout” to federal court in Sydney, Australia, arguing a Melbourne fitness service should not be allowed to register the trademark.

According to 9News, the publisher is appealing a July decision by the registrar of trademarks that Cheqout Pty’s use of the “Superman Workout” mark, as it was unlikely to deceive or confuse consumers, or lead a significant number of people to presume there’s a connection between the fitness classes and DC Comics.

An attorney for the publisher contended the registrar erred on several grounds, including finding that the dictionary definitions of Superman are “a muscularly powerful athletic superman” and “an ideal superior being conceived by (19th century German philosopher) Nietzsche as the product of human evolution.” DC insisted, however, that its comic-book superhero is so widely known that the Man of Steel has become the first connotation of “Superman.”

“We say overwhelmingly when used in this way in respect to these (health and fitness) services, because of our reputation, it will call up my client’s character,” DC lawyer Ron Webb told Justice Annabelle Bennett.

While Nick Gouliaditis, representing the registrar, acknowledged Cheqout’s pairing of the phrase “Superman Workout” with the recognizable shield logo was “perhaps to take advantage,” “the point is whether or not it causes confusion and deception.”

Fiona Brittain of Davies Collison Cave has an analysis of the registrar’s ruling in which she notes the hearing officer emphasized that “superman” is “a known and commonly used term in the fitness industry to indicate a set of core and back strengthening exercises” (above). Further, Brittain writes, “it was significant that DC Comics had not filed any evidence that it had ever conducted exercise or fitness classes or licensed others to do so.”

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The workout/exercise is extraordinarily common. Registering the exercise itself was a mistake.

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