Delays in registering individual Teletubbies names with the Patent Office mean the characters could be caught up in heavy litigation this Christmas – aimed at preventing counterfeit goods.
The name “Teletubbies” was registered before the BBC Worldwide series aired, and is now protected under the 1994 Trade Marks Acts. This gives a watertight legal case against any copycat use of the name.
But an application to protect the individual names, devices and colours of Dipsy, Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa, Po and their playmate Noo-Noo, was only filed “when the success of the Teletubbies became apparent”, it says – in late September. As it takes three months to register trademarks, the Teletubby toys will not be protected by Christmas time.
This leaves the BBC, and Teletubby makers Ragdoll Productions, more vulnerable under UK law. As the Teletubby stock runs out, rogue traders are meeting demand with fake goods. A trader could, for example, supply “Laa-Laa” goods including toys and get round the trademark laws.
The BBC will pursue unauthorised vendors under common law, but this is expensive and harder to win than trademark infringement.