Live long and infringe? Journal Squared ad campaign rips off “Star Trek” trademark

Kushner Real Estate Group says it has removed the phrase from its marketing materials

New York /
Mar.March 08, 2017 04:45 PM

Jonathan Kushner is boldly going where no man has gone before.

Just kidding — he built a luxury tower in New Jersey.

The ad campaign surrounding Journal Squared, Kushner Real Estate Group’s newest development in Jersey City, however, would have you think differently. The posters and the leasing site feature astronauts lounging in their apartments, hitting snooze on an alarm clock set for 10:20 and lounging with martinis. These astronauts are clearly living their best life — with Lower Manhattan always in view.

The gist, it seems, is that residents will be charting unknown territory (in this case, a part of Jersey City that’s not the waterfront) and new worlds that can easily beam over to Manhattan but aren’t technically part of the five boroughs. The phrase “Live long + prosper” appears on posters and marketing materials, a nod to the Vulcan greeting put into the pantheon by Leonard Nimoy’s character Spock in “Star Trek.”

The phrase is trademarked by CBS for various uses, one of those being posters. It doesn’t appear that Kushner obtained permission to use the phrase, nor has CBS challenged the use publicly. Representatives for the network declined to comment for this story.

After The Real Deal contacted representatives for KRE on Wednesday, the company removed the phrase from its website and from its marketing materials (though posters were still up in the PATH train as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday).

“Journal Squared represents a new frontier in modern living,” a KRE spokesperson said in a statement. “The building is the first of its kind in the Journal Square neighborhood, offering direct access to a major transportation hub and more than 10,000 square feet of amenities … These modern conveniences were the inspiration behind the advertising campaign.”

KRE played it safe on this one. The crucial questions in trademark cases are whether the use of the trademark would cause confusion or dilute the brand. In this instance, the issue is whether or not someone who saw the phrase would assume that “Star Trek” was somehow affiliated with the project. Any Trekkie worth her salt, or even someone with cursory knowledge of the show, wouldn’t associate an astronaut with an American flag shoulder patch with “Star Trek.” Plus, apartment hunters aren’t likely to assume the show is directly involved with the property.

“People buying apartments are usually pretty careful,” said David Kluft, a partner at Boston-based Foley Hoag who focuses on copyright and trademarks law. “They don’t just say, ‘oh, it’s a Star Trek apartment. Here’s a million dollars.'”

Still, for an infringement action, the presence of an astronaut could be seen as a muddled science fiction association intended to confuse perspective tenants. CBS could also make the argument that the ads dilute the “Star Trek” brand by diminishing the distinctive character of Spock’s salute by linking it to luxury living. The question then becomes: Is “Live long and prosper” a famous enough mark?

“Certainly people hear it and think of Spock right away,” Kluft said. “On the other hand, it’s been around since the Bible.”

CBS hasn’t taken kindly to other attempts to use the phrase or variations of it in the past. For example, CBS opposed a California woman’s 2010 application to trademark “Live Long and Perspire” for a physical fitness training program.

Other posters, as seen on the PATH train, make references to other movies (though they are puns, not direct quotations). One poster states “There’s no space like home,” while another references Buzz Lightyear.

Journal Square, known to the uninitiated as the final stop on one of the PATH train lines, is starting to become a hotbed of new development. Kushner Companies plans to build two mixed-use towers at One Journal Square and another at 30 Journal Square.

Like many areas seeing a surge of development, residents and others have voiced gentrification concerns. (The city’s own ad campaign is “Make it Yours”). If a campaign based on astronauts exploring new terrain invites such criticism, KRE might find use for another quotation from the logic-driven Spock: “Change is the essential process of all existence.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story used the wrong last name for the partner at Foley Hoag. It’s Kluft.


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