Pixar Petroleum – well, those are two words that I never thought would sit next to one another. However, this is the case after a Canada-based company announced that they were spinning off its oil assets into a subsidiary that shared its name with a certain animation studio located in Emeryville. The company has some history with movie studios – its parent company is Paramount Resources. If they were planning on creating some buzz with the name, well, they have it now. I don’t pretend to know much at all about trademark laws, but I do know that the folks up in Emeryville are not likely to be thrilled with this news.
David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch, first tweeted this news out on Monday. It almost sounded like an April Fool’s joke come way early (or late). How does an oil company, in all of its possible choices, end up going with the name of an animation studio? It’s not like the Pixar name is ubiquitous among company names. You hear Pixar and you think Toy Story or WALL-E or Finding Nemo or Up. Will we now be thinking of oil also?
Let’s go back to how the Pixar name first came about. Many incorrectly think that it’s an acronym for something computer science-y, but it is actually a completely made-up word. When designing computer hardware to sell, the subsidiary of LucasFilm (yes, if you did not already know, Pixar was originally owned by George Lucas) wanted to come up with a unique name. Pixar co-founder Alvy Ray Smith suggested creating a word ending in “-er” and attach it to “Pix” – “Pixer” would mean to create pictures. Loren Carpenter, another co-founder, proposed ending it with “ar” as it sounded more high-tech that way. The result? The Pixar Image Computer. When the LucasFilm branch was sold off to Steve Jobs, the name they landed on was taken from the computer and Pixar Animation Studios was born.
The question now is does the animation studio have any sort of claim on the name, which it created and made world-renowned? Personally, I have no idea. In my limited knowledge of these laws, I do know that since the two companies are in two very different industries, that would make it a more difficult case for the animation powerhouse to protect the name. However, there are laws that state if one company of the same name may negatively affect the name of another, a case can be made. Then again, these may just be U.S. laws. Pixar Petroleum is a company located in Calgary, Canada. But then again, Pixar Canada recently opened its offices in Vancouver.
It’s up to the lawyers now.
Source: Calgary Herald