Wonder Woman, the comic book superhero, has been dispatching villains for 80 years. But her superhuman powers have proved no match for her latest adversary: the Great British mum.
The American publisher, DC Comics, has lost a two-year fight to block the sale of a brand of cosmetics called “Wonder Mum”.
The Warner Brothers subsidiary insisted the label would have been too similar to the name of their crime fighting heroine.
However, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) found the word “mum” was so peculiarly British that no one could mix up a wonderful mother with the film character from the island of Themyscira who founded the Justice League.
The ruling will come as a blow to DC Comics, which went to great lengths to protect the Wonder Woman trademark.
The company had challenged an application by Unilever to create the Wonder Mum brand of hair and cosmetic products. Its lawyers told a special hearing that any beauty products named “Wonder Mum” would “mislead the public” into believing the range was linked to the superhero created in 1941.
Jay Kogan, DC Comics’ senior vice-president of legal affairs, filed 279 pages of evidence insisting that the brand name would “tarnish” the reputation of Wonder Woman, a character worth millions of dollars and which had garnered tremendous “goodwill” in the UK.
He claimed the word “mum” was a “subset” of the word “woman”, and consequently a mum was simply too similar to a woman.
But, Judi Pike, the hearing officer presiding over the case, analysed the dictionary definitions of each word in both trademarks.
Dictionary definitions decide the case
She concluded that while “wonder woman” described a “very effective or good … adult female human being”, “wonder mum” portrays a “mainly British” mother who has brought up her own or someone else’s children exceptionally well.
She wrote in her 48-page ruling: “I find that ‘wonder woman’ does not tell one what the woman is good or effective at, beyond being a woman, because ‘woman’ carries no meaning or connotation beyond identifying the person as an adult human female. It is not much different to saying ‘wonder person’.”
She concluded that ‘wonder mum’ meant “a very good or effective mum/mother, i.e. that the mum is very good or effective at raising children.”
Drawing on the Collins English Dictionary definitions, she added: “Whilst both nouns denote a female, many women have had no children, but all mums have had or brought up children.”
She added how the word “mum” also “has an informal, colloquial and ‘cosy’ ring to it.”
She granted Unilever the Wonder Mum trademark for products including soaps, perfumes, hair care products and skin preparations.
DC Comics was ordered to pay Unilever £1,950 costs. DC Comics failed to respond to a request for a comment. Unilever declined to comment.
Last year, Gal Gadot played the superhero character in the hit Hollywood movie Wonder Woman 1984. The character, who wielded a lasso of truth, was also made famous in the UK with the Seventies American television series that starred Lynda Carter.