Oh, darn! You see, I just missed the next episode of my favorite animated TV show that is a sequel to another animated TV show that I cannot mention cause it's on a different network! Scorpion:
Is the Galactic Protectorate run by Warner Bros.? Is that why you can't mention the TV show by name even though you're in an entirely different dimension, isolated from everyone else you know? Duck Dodgers:
Oh no, it's actually a little problem I have since I was born. Look at this. The Powerpuff Girls
. See, nothing happens. Animaniacs
. Nothing happens again. But when I say SpongeBo
— (gets into a spastic attack
) See? I can say things like Avatar
. But when I say Last Ai
— (gets into another spastic attack
) I call it Network Syndrome.
Sometimes, a rather more direct Shout-Out
or name dropping is attempted, but to do so would skirt dangerously close to trademark law. While there are plenty of ways to use substitutes or write around the trademarks, another way is to go ahead with the reference, but deliberately not
go through with it, just far enough for the audience to know exactly who or what you're talking about.
There are many ways to get around this visually: Censor mosaic, a black bar over the eyes, or pull back and only make a strong resemblance. But with dialogue, a common way is to have a character obliquely reference the Fourth Wall
by stopping the mention before it finishes, directly warning the speaker about getting their makers in trouble. In writing, especially for comics and manga, whatever word they want to say will be said by the character, but the text of the name itself will be partially blanked out or substituted with wingdings.
See also Writing Around Trademarks
, Lawyer-Friendly Cameo
, Captain Ersatz
, Bland-Name Product
, Disney Owns This Trope
, Our Lawyers Advised This Trope
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- Hilariously Invoked and Lampshaded by Samsung to lampoon the NFL's over-enthusiastic defense of its trademarks in their preparations for a Supe—*censored*, ahem, Big Game ad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzfAdmAtYIY
- UK off-licence chain Oddbins invoked this trope in their ads in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, referencing the fact that only official licensed adverts could directly refer to them. This led to such Oddbins ads as "We're not allowed to use the name. We're not allowed to mention the location. We're not even allowed to mention the year. But celebrate them with us anyway" and "Celebrate the [CENSORED] with Oddbins" (yes, that's exactly how it was printed).
- EU law is such that the names "Parmesan" and "Feta" can no longer be used to refer generically to cheese varieties, but only to cheeses specifically from their original production regions. Hence there's a lot of "Greek-style salad cheese" and "Italian-style cheese" around. It is probably only a matter of time before we see "Canadian West-Country Style cheese".
Anime & Manga
- Adam Warren ran this joke into the ground for his Gen 13 limited series Magical Drama Queen Roxy. Usually said by the "fairy god critter" (who also apologizes for saying "bibbity boppity boo" and mentioning the Whitney Houston version of Cinderella). Toward the end he does the death scene from Titanic with a large sign in front of "Jack's" face, saying "not really (a series of increasingly silly misspellings of Leo's name), really!!"
- From an old Wonder Man one-shot that featured Simon Williams ending up in the Mojo verse. Mojo's lackey points out that Marvel owns the Wonder Man copyright:
: No problem. A quick gender flip and we market him as Wonder Wo
Lackey: Lawsuit city, dead ahead.
- A similar joke was used/expanded on in a one-panel gag in Marvel's What If? #34, which asked the musical question, "What if Wonder Man was a woman, and Power Man was a girl?" The panel is partially covered up by a note from "Your Distinguished Competition" advising against printing the gag.
- From Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, there is a comment from an employee that says she will be punished, and will end up working on Taco Bell. On a little footnote, it says Don't sue me, I'm funny!.
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns teases Superman's appearance with news stories of people being saved by a red/blue blur. The news anchor keeps trying to say lines from the opening of the Fleischer Brothers cartoons, but is warned against finishing them each time due to legal concerns.
- During the Batman: Hush storyline, both Batman and Catwoman at one point say, "Faster than a speeding...you know."
- An issue of Justice League America pointed out that Fire resembled Marvel's Human Torch.
Citizen #1 Look up in the sky!
Citizen #2 It's a bird!
Citizen #3 It's a plane!
Citizen #4 It's the Human...
Citizen #4 ...Don't say it!
- In Austin Powers in Goldmember, the events during a chase scene set in Japan include a cart carrying a statue of a Godzilla-like monster rolling through the streets. A random person in the street shouts "Run! It's Godzilla!" Another person, standing next to him, mentions that it's clearly not Godzilla, because if it were, it would violate copyright laws.
- "Still, we should run like it is Godzilla! (quite calmly) Though it isn't." (runs away panicked)
- Said "another person" would be Masi Oka.
- What makes that scene hilarious is a Charmander that is also fleeing from the aforementioned Godzilla.
- In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the title characters have a Bongsaber Duel with the Cocknocker in their Bluntcave.
"I think George Lucas gon' sue somebody"
- In Kick-Ass the superhero Big Daddy is described several times as looking like Batman, almost always followed by a panicked "I never said he looked like Batman!!!"
- In Dorkness Rising, after one character produces a lightsaber from "the trunk", he's informed that "he can't use a lightsaber, it's not even the right system!"
Brother Silence: I don't see a lightsaber. That would be copyright infringement. I see a psionic spirit blade.
- Inverted in Blazing Saddles:
Mel Brooks: Thank you, Hedy, thank you.
Hedley Lamarr: It's not Hedy; it's Hedley. Hedley Lamarr.
Mel Brooks: What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874. You'll be able to sue her!
- Funnily enough, Hedy Lamar did end up suing the movie over the use of her name.
Live Action TV
- Lampshaded when Alton Brown has an episode "busting" some food myths in Good Eats. Just as he starts to say "bust some my-", the telephone rings and he demands his lawyer on why he can't finish the phrase. The reason? "'COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT'?!" He reluctantly changes it to "Myth Smashers".
- The Colbert Report's Vancouverage (which is so not Olympic coverage).
- Done in-universe in iCarly. They start singing "Happy Birthday" on the webshow, only for Freddie to interrupt them and point out that it isn't public domain. They switch to "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".
- From the season 3 Christmas episode of Glee :
Blaine: (To Finn and Puck) Say, are you dressed like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo?
Finn: No, that's copyright infringement! Any resemblance to Star Wars characters is purely coincidental!
- The Muppet Show:
Scooter: The people that published the music from Camelot just called and they won't let you do it.
Kermit: What? I was willing to give them credit! I would've given them a big build up! I would have given anything to do the jousting scene!
Scooter: They want money.
Kermit: Cancel the jousting scene.
- From Mystery Science Theater 3000, we get:
- The 10th volume of the DVD collections of the series was originally released with Godzilla vs. Megalon; unfortunately, the rights fell through, and the future releases of volume "10.2" had an extra skit on the replacement The Giant Gila Monster disk where Dr. Forrester scolds TV's Frank for not getting the rights to the "Japanese Giant Monster Movie" (or as Frank and Joel put it, "(Mumble) vs. (Unintelligible)").
- Hilariously toyed with by James May on an episode of Top Gear where, while cooking during a camping episode, he spends about 2 minutes trying to describe a particular treat whose name can't be specifically used for legal reasons...but then finishes up with, "but of course you know they're Jaffa Cakes."
- LazyTown is a no brainer cause of the "evil dude"'s gallery resembeling Power Rangers Zeo.
Bill: "Saban is gonna sue you for stealing his idea.
- In real life, Saban DID sue the guys who made LazyTown for being a copycat to the Power Chamber display cases & won. So as a result, the "evil dude" later got an upgraded disguse machine where his disguses are projected one at a time instead of being shown in tubes all at once. The works of it stayed the same.
- Used in the classic MAD parody "Bat Boy and Rubin!"
: Now! Onto the window sill! Faster than a speeding bullet, Kapweeng!
Up... up... up and away! Rubin
: Wait a minute, Bat Boy! That 'faster than a speeding bullet' is another character's
routine!... It may be copyrighted! Want to get us sued?
- This and many other references to the fact that these characters are not those other comic book characters are payback for legal threats from DC concerning their previous parody, "Superduperman". Ironically, MAD had predicted they would get sued for their still earlier Dragnet parody, whose opening caption said, "Only the names haven't been changed so as not to protect the writer of this story!"
- Curt Hennig, at the time formerly Mr. Perfect in the WWF (now WWE), cut off frequent associate Rick Rude from calling him perfect on WCW television so they wouldn't get sued.
- During the Midwest Militia (Sassy Stephie/Allysin Kay)-KOA (Sugar Dunkerton/Aaron Epic) match at WSU vs. Beyond Wrestling, October 13, 2012, while Stephie had Dunkerton in a hammerlock, Epic tried starting a "YES! YES! YES!" chant, and Stephie said, "That's trademarked."
- This is a frequent joke on Car Talk due to Tom and Ray's unabashed negative opinions of certain companies *coughGMChryslerFordcough*, though there have been several occasions when they've actually gotten in trouble.
- Super Robot Wars W when Lowe from Gundam SEED Astray accidentally re-routes all the Red Frame's power to one of its hand plugs, and attacks an enemy with it. While this attack is known in its original series as the "Thunder Ball", Gai Daigoji is cut off before he can suggest calling it the "Shining Finger" - by a character who shares the same voice actor as Ryusei Date, in a bit of creative irony (Ryusei's own R-1 has the completely original T-Link Knuckle).
- In the Japanese version of Mega Man 7, Mega Man will sometimes converse with Roll or Auto instead of Dr. Light after acquiring a new weapon (screenshots with translations here). One of these is likely meant as a parody of the trope since it references a property jointly-owned by Capcom:
: "With this Slash Claw, I can slice through anything." Auto
: "Incredible! It's like SXrXder HiXyuu
!" Mega Man
: "Promise you won't say that again."
- Similarly, one episode of "Teach Me, Miss Litchi!" has Litchi comparing Ragna to Chipp Zanuff, prompting the former to yell "Gauntlet Hades!" to "obscure" the meaning.
- In the English dub of that episode, she's just interrupted while mentioning Chipp's name by Taokaka loudly entering Litchi's clinic.
- Lunar: Eternal Blue, when asked about the birds pulling a wagon. "These? They're Choc....uh....Chuckaboos!"
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, after the chapter's end, you can still go hide by the birds in Twilight Town and listen to them talk. One of the birds wants to open a pay site for real estate called "Luigi's Mansion". The other bird thinks he's heard the name somewhere before, and warns him against using it, lest he get sued. (They go ahead and say the name, because both are by Nintendo.)
- This exchange from Uncharted 2:
Nathan: I'll go down there and create a distraction, while you take one of those nice-looking Jee—
- The Interactive Fiction game Toonesia, so not set in the Looney Tunes world (and starring many familiar-looking characters). Should you examine the Tasmanian Devil:
The Tazmanian Devil is a real animal, not a copyright of a certain large corporation with lots of legal muscle. I can therefore mention it by name in this game. Unfortunately, if I were to describe a real-life Tazmanian Devil, you'd only be disappointed—they don't look like much. So, I won't describe the slavering beast before you. And if you assume that it has a boxy body attached to short thin legs, two large maniacal eyes set above a wide, drooling, sharp-fanged mouth, and brown fur all over, then YOU'RE violating copyright, not me.
- Banjo-Tooie: In the original Nintendo64 version, Kazooie tells Loggo, a talking toilet, that he should call a plumber to get himself unclogged, specifically Mario. In the Xbox LIVE Arcade port, because Rare no longer works under Nintendo, Mario is merely alluded to as "the famous Italian one."
- Coga Suro has Steve announcing that he's found a name for his Ridiculously Human Robot -as it changes into a costume resembling that of Marvel's The Vision, Steve has enough time to announce it as 'The Vis-' before Jerry interrupts him by smiting him with an object.
- In The Wotch, Anne attempts to make Jason's comics into moving pictures, but instead brings them to life... as obvious Expy clones. When Jason suggests that magic has to obey copyright laws, Robin points out that even he, a non-comic fan, can tell which character is which, and starts to name them, to be quickly interrupted with:
Jason: Shut up! Do you want to invoke the wrath of the Lawsuit Gods?!
- Mister Mighty's battle cry has to be approved by his team's lawyers.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Despite Secret's first impression, the Plot Coupons from Keychain of Creation are definitely not Keyblades.
Secret: It's a keybla-
Misho: No, it's not.
Misho: Shut up.
- 8-Bit Theater uses this quite a bit with characters like "The Sulk" or "Arachna-dude" and a few others throughout.
- Times Like This: This trope is invoked while Cassie's trying to name her newly-hatched dinosaur.
fine, if you want to get sued by David Willis
- One character in Goblins is named "Drasst Don'tsue"
- Our Little Adventure had a harpy who looked like Medli from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. She is killed after a couple of pages, and Rocky points out that if she stayed around any longer they'd have to pay a royalty to Nintendo.
- Nearly every episode of The Allen And Craig Show involves a scheme that revolves around Allen copying a popular television show, movie, or internet meme/trend in his attempts to gain notoriety, including but not limited to House, Hells Kitchen, and the popular Diet Coke and Mentos YouTube video.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh Cr@psule Monsters when Tristan finds a Pikachu-like mon:
- Another Yugioh Abridged Example was, strangely enough, a retroactive instance of this trope. Tea said "It is on in a matter similar to that of Donkey Kong." Shortly after the episode was released, by complete coincidence, Nintendo filed a trademark on the real phrase, "It's on like Donkey Kong."
- Hogan Vs Flair bills a number of WWE and TNA wrestlers under other names, ostensibly for just this reason. . For example The Dudley Boyz/Team 3D are called "Team 3rd Dimension", with Bubba Ray billed as "Bowling Shirt" and D-Von called "Camo Pants".
- In Arfenhouse Teh Movie Too, "LAWSUIT" stamps are displayed after segments ripping off Excel♥Saga and Boxer Man.
- This story started with a song by Roberto Carlos until a character ordered it to stop out of fear Carlos would sue them.
- Dr.Doofenshmirtz in one of his Vlogs said That he cant Legally say IPhone on the show ,so he called it a IDoo-hickey.