Enough is enough: I’ve seen old movies all my life and never understood why the final card on each RKO Radio Picture contained the words “Reg. US Pat. Af.” With pandemic time on my hands, I sat down to find the answer.
After all, the MGM lion Leo carried the words TRADE and MARK on either side of the roaring beast, bringing to life a childhood belief that Trade and Mark were the names of the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame.
My friend Eric Kurland, who has mastered the art of internet research, checked the files from the US Patent Office online and discovered that the newly formed Radio Pictures in 1929 filed a trademark claim, NOT on their impressive image of a radio tower on top of a spinning globe. This was for the inverted triangular graphic design that appeared at the end of each studio release, accompanied by the company name “Radio Pictures.” (Note that this happened before the addition of RKO to the company name.) Here is the actual application:
|Word mark||RADIO PICTURES|
|Goods and services||(EXPIRED) IC 009. US 026. G & S: FILM ADAPTED FOR REPRODUCTION AND CONTAINS RECORDED PICTURES OF PICTURES AND / OR RECORDED SOUND. FIRST USE: 19290123. FIRST USE IN TRADE: 19290123|
|Brand drawing code||(3) DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS AND / OR NUMBERS|
|Submission date||January 31, 1929|
|Original archiving basis||1A|
|Registration date||January 14, 1930|
|Owner||(LAST ENGAGED OWNER) RKO PRODUCTIONS INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE NEW YORK NEW YORK|
|Disclaimer||THE WORD “IMAGES” IS A PART OF THE REGISTRATION, WANTED ONLY IN COMBINATION AND IN CONNECTION WITH THE OTHER FUNCTIONS OF THE BRAND SHOWN ON THE DRAWING.|
|Description of Mark||THE LINING ON THE DRAWING IS FOR THE PURPOSE OF INDICATING SHADING ONLY|
|Type of brand||TRADEMARK|
|Living / death indicator||DEATH|
The public authority that deals with all this material was founded 185 years ago. Today it is called the US Patent and Trademark Office and is a division of the Department of Commerce. It facilitates the issuance of patents to inventors and trademarks to owners of products and intellectual property.
So why did some companies choose to boast of their registration, while others, like Universal and 20th Century Fox, right? We may never know. (Leon Schlesinger’s Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were also Reg. US Pat. Off.) RKO even inserted a registration mark (an R in a circle) on the screen at the beginning of their last-day feature, so these cases kept the firm’s lawyers busy.
You can see the inverted triangle logo painted on a soundstage wall facing Gower Street in Hollywood with contract player Anne Shirley in the foreground in this 1934 image. It remained intact until Desilu Productions bought RKO and its facilities in 1957; in 1962, Paramount bought out Desilu and merged the nearby study facilities. When my wife and I moved to Hollywood in 1983, the original brand was still faintly visible, along with the newly painted Paramount logo that looked out from under several layers of lime.
In 1994, Paramount commissioned the famous underwater artist Robert Wyland to create a mural that filled the entire wall of Stage 29. Nothing against whales or Wyland, but I’m glad I had a chance to photograph it first!
Now when I see the playful “Reg. US Pat. Off” at the end of King Kong, Swing Time, or Mexican Spitfire sees a ghostI know what that means … so to speak.