The Dark Knight Rises' opening this week makes it as good a time as any to ask, do you know what the difference is between Gotham and Gotham City?
The former term associated with Batman/Bruce Wayne's hometown is not trademarked. But a recent filing by the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation aims to change that. It also raises questions about why the filing wasn't made by DC Comics or Dark Knight movie studio, Warner Bros.
"All Access Pass To Gotham City." "Explore Gotham like never before." "Imported from Gotham." "Go Greyhound to Gotham City."
These are just a few of the marketing tag lines from the partner brands that are official "Friends of Gotham City" and the new Dark Knight Rises film.
They are used interchangeably, but only one has trademark protection, attained in 2007 by DC Comics (after a 2002 filing).
It might seem like an incredibly late filing considering how well connected the fictional city is with Batman.
The New York City writer Washington Irving used "Gotham" as a nickname for Manhattan over 200 years ago in 1807 in a periodical. It did not stick immediately, but over time "Gotham" became synonymous with New York City.
Today New York businesses from comedy clubs to magazines to restaurant groups to women's roller derby teams use the term. Even businesses beyond NYC regularly adopt the name to suggest the iconic grittiness of Manhattan. There is even a typeface named Gotham. And we haven't forgotten the good citizens of Gotham, Wisconsin.
In fact, the co-creator of Batman said the moniker "Gotham City" was adopted after the writers "flipped through the New York City phone book and spotted the name 'Gotham Jewelers.'"
In just the last year, a search of US trademark applications reveals records for Gotham Physiques (exercise and health), Gotham Blonde (jewelry), Gotham Glow ("airbrush skin tanning"), Gotham Psychotherapy, Gotham Project Empire Builder ("Alcoholic beverages except beers"), Gotham Wine Group, Gotham radio, The Gotham Hotel Group, Gotham Greens (Fresh fruit, vegetables), Gotham Burlesque (non-kiddy "Entertainment in the nature of visual and audio performances,"), Gotham Center (property management and leasing), Two Gotham Center (also real estate), Gotham Central ("Motion picture films featuring comedy, drama, action, adventure and/or animation") and just plain old "Gotham" by Howard Berger Co., Inc. of New Jersey, covering "metal security hardware for doors." (Maybe not aware of the existing trademark, there was even a recent application for the mark "Gotham City" by covering "nightclub entertainment events" by a California company named "Real Reputables Entertainment." Just in case there's any doubt that it is indeed "Real Reputables.")
This brings us to the February 23, 2012 UPSTO trademark applications for "Gotham" filed by the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. The first covers:
"Entertainment services in the nature of a television series featuring drama; providing on-line information in the field of television and video entertainment featuring drama via the Internet; entertainment services in the nature of non-downloadable videos and images featuring television shows transmitted via the Internet and wireless communication networks; on-line journals, namely, blogs featuring personal opinions in the field of general interest and drama; entertainment amusement park and theme park services; entertainment services in the nature of live musical, comedy and dramatic performances"
The second filing that same day by Twentieth Century Fox Film aimed to trademark:
"Pre-recorded DVDs featuring drama; pre-recorded CDs featuring drama and musical performances; downloadable audio and video recordings featuring drama; downloadable television shows and video recordings featuring drama; downloadable ring tones, graphics, computer desktop wallpaper, games and music via a global computer network and wireless devices; computer screen saver software; computer game and video game software; mousepads; decorative magnets; eye glasses; hand-held units for playing electronic games for use with external display screen or monitor; downloadable mobile software applications for mobile communication devices; computer application software for mobile phones."
It's no surprise the studio would want to protect a concept it — and its partner DC Comics — have spent years and millions of dollars promoting. For example, in 2008 when the studio was busy promoting The Dark Knight, New York City legislators in the borough of Queens moved to adopt "Gotham City" as a tourism slogan. From the Village Voice:
"Queens Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who counts Batman as one of his childhood heroes, views his Gotham City pitch as a tourist lure. 'I see that as a marketing tool, ‘Come visit the real Gotham City,’ taking advantage of this movie which will be one of those gate-breaking, record-selling movies like it always is,' he said."
While DC and the studio may have been humbled by such a touching gesture, the fact remains that New York was looking to piggyback on a concept the corporations had spend considerable time building up since it first appeared in the Batman story in 1940. It's true that New York using Gotham City to promote tourism might create an echo chamber that would positively promote the Batman film, it could just as easily turn into just more noise.
But the curious detail from the February filing is that it was made by Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros. — DC's parent company, and the studio behind the Dark Knight trilogy. In the past, it has always been DC that has moved to protect Batman intellectual property, from its 2002 "Gotham City" filing to its 2007, pre-Dark Knight movie release filing to trademark "The Dark Knight" for "Motion picture films."
Twentieth Century Fox does have a Batman property, in the form of the (now adorably corny) original Batman TV series. Curiously enough, a few months after Twentieth Century applied to trademark "Gotham," it announced that it had struck a long-simmering deal with Warner Bros. to license the 1960s series for a wide range of products, although "Gotham" was never mentioned.
There certainly appeards to be a lot of potentail overlap for what Twentieth Century Fox is claiming and what DC (and Warner) might want to use in the future.
DC Comics did not return requests for comment.
Below, R. Kelly's tribute to Gotham City: