OPINION: Boughs of folly: What Netflix’s new Christmas musical can teach us about toy IP protection

Christmas is a time in which toys and games become the focus of a festive season and Netflix won’t be deviating from the narrative this year with the release of its latest musical adventure, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey – the story of a toy inventor who loses everything when his book of unprotected inventions is stolen.

For Wynne Jones IP’s trade mark attorney and partner, Victor Caddy it’s another day in the office. Here, he explores the film’s messages of belief, hope and why, when it comes to protecting your intellectual property, ’tis not the season to be folly.

 Tis the season to be jolly and many of us enjoy nothing more during the holidays than to hunker down at home and watch a Christmas movie. Christmas films frequently delve into matters of love and of morality and are often packed full to the brim of life’s lessons. This year, Netflix’s musical Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey tackles some very important lessons in Intellectual Property. 

The film follows the story of the world’s greatest inventor, Jeronicus Jangle (played by Forest Whitaker) who enjoys great success as a brilliant toymaker designing and creating magical toys. Jangle believes his most recent invention, the figure Don Juan Diego, will change the lives of his family forever.

The creation, however, turns out to be one of villainous intent and convinces Jangle’s apprentice Gustafson to steal his creator’s books of inventions and set up their own toy factory.

Needless to say, Jangle falls upon hard times, and, growing distant from his own daughter following the death of his wife, transitions from a one-time brilliant inventor to a failing pawnbroker on the brink of financial ruin. It’s certainly a story that knows how to pluck the heart strings. Having lost his book of inventions, and the belief in his abilities, Jangle faces a bleak and lonely future… It’s at this point we press pause with the compulsion to ask ourselves, what does this story teach us about IP? 

It wouldn’t be a Christmas film without a message of belief and hope, and according to Netflix if you’re an inventor then belief is everything. 

Belief and hope are the driving forces that spur inventors and entrepreneurs on, giving them faith to do the never-been-done-before and confidence to step out into the unknown. Belief can be the difference between the world’s greatest inventor and someone who merely has big ideas. James Dyson, for example, took 5,127 failed attempts to come up with the bagless vacuum cleaner that has become a favourite in households around the world. If he didn’t believe in himself and his ideas, would he have persisted time and time again? 

Dyson isn’t the only household name that kept going despite many failures. It took Thomas Edison more than 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before he created the lightbulb, and he famously once said “many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.” 

But success takes more than belief. It takes ideas, too – and in very practical terms, the best information at how to handle and protect those ideas. 

Inventions with working parts (including magic) are usually protected by one or several patents. In the case of Jangle’s Buddy 3000 – a flying robot that’s powered by belief – there could be patents protecting the numerous mechanical features, but it also attracts trade mark and design rights that are often especially relevant in the toy and game industry.

Unfortunately the Buddy 3000 – like Jangle’s book of collected inventions before it – didn’t have its intellectual property protected, and it’s when Gustafson reappears to get his hands on Buddy and the blueprints, and stake his claim to the invention we face a sorry ending. Without the proper IP protections in place, it is one’s word against another.

But this wouldn’t be a Christmas tale without a bit of magic, now would it? And by the employment of great foresight, Jangle’s own granddaughter – Journey – provides the proof. She had marked the designs for the Buddy 3000 as ‘the property of Jeronicus Jangle’ in invisible ink, offering the appropriately happy ending to this cautionary tale.

But real life isn’t quite so forgiving, and while the intellectual property lesson’s brought to us as all by Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey this year are quite sound, we can’t all rely on that pot of invisible ink.

No, for real-world Intellectual Property advice, you’re far better off getting in touch with us. 

Victor Caddy is a trademark and design attorney and partner at Wynne Jones IP. He has more than 25 years’ experience as a specialist trademark and design attorney, providing proactive strategic advice across a range of sector specialisms.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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