Hurray For HOLLYWOOD (Florida)! -The Motion Picture Capital’s Distant Cousin

hollywood signI am headed to Hollywood.  As much fun as it would be to report that I am leaving the work-a-day world behind to try and make it in moving pictures, the silver screen will have to wait.  I am actually going to the International Trademark Association (INTA) Leadership Meeting in sunny Hollywood, Florida, which begins on November 15th.  Nestled between Fort Lauderdale and Miami on the Atlantic coast, Hollywood has a two-and-a-half mile oceanfront boardwalk and boasts temperatures of about 80°F (27°C) this time of year.  Sounds like a nice destination as the chill of autumn settles in for us northerners.  But if you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, “so what’s up with the name?  Any relation to Hollywood, California?”  As it turns out, yes.

The West Coast Hollywood became the preferred location of choice for the film industry at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The weather, no doubt, played a major role.  Also, it turns out that independent filmmakers of the day didn’t love paying patent royalties to Thomas Edison.  Back then, the federal courts of California, which had only been a state for about fifty years at the time, had a penchant for not enforcing patent rights.  So filmmakers took their pirated technology across the country, far from Edison’s New Jersey headquarters, confident that they could always hightail it to Mexico and out of the reach of U.S. patent jurisdiction if they did get sued.  Thus, an industry town was born.

By 1925, Edison’s patent rights had expired.  So an enterprising real estate developer named Joseph W. Young founded a Sunshine State city with the hopes of establishing a motion picture hub on the East Coast.  Relocating from Long Beach, California, Young naturally called his upstart tinsel town Hollywood by the Sea.  As you can probably guess, things didn’t quite work out as planned.  A 1926 hurricane devastated much of Hollywood Florida and the stock market crash of 1929 didn’t help either.  Young died in 1934 without realizing his vision.

Nonetheless, today’s Hollywood Florida is a tourism success story.  It is filled with about sixty parks and seven golf courses, and resorts stretch out along its sandy beaches.  There is no walk of fame along which to stroll but, on the plus side, the chances are pretty low that someone will ask you to read their screenplay while you are there.

Finally, as you approach the Florida city, don’t keep an eye out for a replica of the famous Hollywood sign.  The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in California claims rights in the sign’s design as a trademark, and owns a number of U.S. trademark registrations for that instantly- recognizable configuration of letters, including registrations in connection with apparel, food, and, interestingly, intellectual property licensing.  Call it a hunch, but I think the Chamber of Commerce would look askance at a copycat sign overlooking its Florida namesake. And I have it on good authority that transcontinental intellectual property enforcement is not as sketchy as it used to be.

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