Sink Your Teeth Into IP This Shark Week

“Live every week like it’s Shark Week,” Tracy Jordan (played by actor Tracy Morgan) told Kenneth many years ago on the hit sitcom 30 Rock. Since then, shark television enthusiasts have enjoyed more than ten years of Shark Week festivities. This week’s lineup includes everything from shark races with athletes Aaron Rogers, Lindsey Vonn, and Rob Gronkowski to a study of the shark diet with chef Guy Fieri.

Here at GIPC, we’re watching Shark Week ravenously. And we’ve noticed that the intellectual property (IP) behind the program is also what’s behind its thrilling success. Let’s dive in.

  1. The creators behind Shark Week rely on copyright to protect their art and drive innovation in future broadcasts.

Scriptwriters, photographers, actors, graphic designers and artists, musicians and songwriters, and videographers all play an integral role in bringing Shark Week to our screens. Their creative investments are important, and copyright protections give tangible value to their contributions. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) shares, “2.1 million people—from special effects technicians to makeup artists to writers to set builders and more— work in jobs supported by the [film and TV] industry.” Entire livelihoods depend on a strong copyright system.

Copyright also protects creators against piracy. According to the MPAA, content creators now use more than 140 legal services to make film and TV content available online in the United States and more than 460 around the world. When consumers seek illegal streams and downloads, our creators – all 2.1 million of them – suffer and future creativity is stifled.

  1. Patent protection incentivizes the research and development behind the cutting-edge shark technology we see each episode.

Shark Week highlights plenty of jaw-some technology. Scientists use state-of-the-art satellite capabilities to gather previously inaccessible data on migration and mating patterns. Researchers use software to track trends in ecological activity to promote smarter shark conservation. Not to mention the cages and special clothing that help keep swimmers safe during shark encounters.

Patents safeguard new inventions like these from infringement and other unfair market practices. Patent protection allows innovators to recoup their investments and re-invest into new and better ideas. A quick search for “shark” in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s patent database reveals more than 50,000 patents. Innovators have patented shark prods, methods of extracting shark cartilage for study, and, not surprisingly, plenty of shark repelling devices.

  1. Shark Week is a powerful brand, and the Shark Week trademark defends its killer reputation in the marketplace.

What do you think of when you hear (or read) “Shark Week?” Perhaps you reflect upon a favorite memory of watching programming with friends. For you, Shark Week might be primarily fun or scary, educational or entertaining. You might even visualize the famous shark fin associated with the event.

Trademarks like the Shark Week phrase and logo represent the emotions, reputations, and goodwill we attach to our favorite brands. They help us identify brands quickly and with confidence. This year, you can find the Shark Week trademark attached to Vineyard Vines t-shirts, shark-themed Swedish Fish, and even special airplanes with the Southwest Airlines Shark Week fleet. In all, Discovery has established 26 brand partners, taking a bite out of a variety of market sectors using the power of its trademarks.

It’s no question that Shark Week is making waves. As we celebrate another week of shark-themed splendor, let’s also celebrate the IP behind its ever-growing splash.

Courtney Paul is the manager of communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center.


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