Oil Company renames itself Pixar

After reading a strange press release found by Big Screen Animation blog, I had to double-check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t already April Fools day. A Canadian oil company has renamed itself after Pixar Animation Studios, perhaps in hopes of capitalizing on the success and goodwill of the popular brand and white-washing its own dirty industry image.

Previously known as Paramount Resources, I guess the executives got tired of being named after one of Hollywood’s has-been brands.

As far as I can tell, this is not a joke, there’s even a serious sounding press release composed without a hint of irony. It’s being reported in the wider media as well.

Mike B., who owns Big Screen Animation (and writes non-animation related material for The Disney Blog) broke the story. I bet he was surprised when that press release got picked up in his keyword dragnet.

I’m no trademark expert, but this seems like shameless hijacking of a well known brand by an industry in desperate need of good publicity—the Alberta tar sands are an environmental disaster.

Coincidentally, Leslie Iwerks, director of The Pixar Story and A Day in the Life of John Lasseter, made a series of documentaries about the issue. You can watch one of them, Downstream, here.

Unfortunately, I doubt Pixar has a trademark claim here. The industries are diverse enough there shouldn’t be any real confusion among the public that they’re the same company. That is why we can have Dove soap and Dove ice cream bars. The trademark name can be the same, but the trademark logo must be sufficiently different.

As a fun coda to the story, Mike posted to Twitter the following image which is a look at his web traffic logs shortly after the story went live.

Guess the story raised some eyebrows up in Emeryville.

(BP Parody Image is from El Blog De Chibiboto)

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17 Responses to Oil Company renames itself Pixar

  1. Dineen says:

    I actually am a trademark expert, though on American law, not Canadian. Under US Law, you’re right that whether there is a trademark infringement claim turns on a multi-factored test that includes comparing channels of trade, types of goods, etc. The touchstone is whether consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of the goods or services, and a likelihood of confusion is very much an open question here. Under U.S. Law, Pixar would have a clear cut claim for dilution, however. Dilution covers the space where a famous mark is being copied and it’s not going to confuse consumers as to source, but is likely to tarnish or blur the lines as to where the famous mark ends and the new product begins. The example used in the statute is that it can be used by KODAK to stop an unrelated company from putting that brand name on, say, pianos. Pixar would easily prove its fame under US law and could be entitled to an injunction. I don’t know if Canada has a similar cause of action.

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  16. Andrew says:

    This is pretty odd. I wonder with time gone by what is happening now. It probably won’t go anywhere being the fact that this company isn’t based in the USA.

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