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Chock Full O’ Legal Woes

Did you think that all the legal problems plaguing Watchmen was over? Well, think again. It looks like lawyers for Warner Bros. are waking up to the aroma of a freshly brewed lawsuit courtesy of the Massimo Zanetti Beverage company.

In a new complaint filed in Virginia District Court, the coffee maker accuses Warner Bros., DC Comics, and the Organic Coffee Cartel of trademark infringement associated with a tie-in coffee product called Nite Owl Dark Roast.

The coffee, which was featured in a scene that was cut from the theatrical version of Watchmen, featured Nite Owl and Silk Spectre serving coffee to recently-saved victims of a tenement fire. The cut scene will likely been seen in the director's cut of the film that will appear on DVD and may even see a limited release in theaters in July.

Massimo Zanetti thinks the trade dress on Nite Owl coffee looks awfully similar to its own trade dress on the Chock Full O’ Nuts line of coffee. Massimo demands an injunction against any further exploitation of the mark and a share of profits from the film.

Nite Owl Dark Roast was the brainchild of Watchmen set photographer Clay Enos who created The Organic Coffee Cartel, or OCC, in 2007 to help struggling third-world coffee farmers bring much needed money back into their communities.

Nite Owl Dark Roast and Chock Full O' Nuts Coffee

Now if you look at the can designs, the lower half does resemble the design of Chock Full O’ Nuts, but it will be up to the courts to decide whether or not it resembles it a little too much. Damages in trademark infringement are generally based on the profits from the sale of the infringing work and if the prosecution can show that the infringement was willful, those damages can be tripled.

But the interesting thing is that Chock Full O’ Nuts is looking for a share of the film's profits when the image of this can was not even shown in the movie. I've seen the film three times and I've tried to spot it and I couldn't, so if it is there, it must be for a split second, in the background and not in focus.

Recently, the price for the organic coffee, which has been lauded by fans to taste fantastic, has been cut from $15.99 to just $8.99 a can. The coffee can be purchased on Amazon.com or on The Organic Coffee Cartel Web site.

4.7.09 Source: THR, Esq.

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