History and Sci Fi move dueling 'UFO Hunters' debuts to Jan. 30
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/29/2008
So much for the possibility that The History Channel or Sci Fi Channel might "blink" and back away from their plans to premiere different reality programs with the same UFO Hunters name and subject matter on the same night in the same time period.
It's unclear which network made the first move, but in what appears to be a game of trademark chess aimed at ensuring neither show can claim to have aired before the other, The History Channel and Sci Fi Channel have both announced plans to move the debuts their UFO Hunters programs up a week.
Both networks' UFO Hunters reality series-- which were previously scheduled to premiere Wednesday, February 6 at 10PM ET/PT -- will now debut Wednesday, January 30 at 10PM ET/PT.
As previously reported, The History Channel's UFO Hunters will follow a team from UFO Magazine as they investigate UFO cases in North America and Europe while Sci Fi Channel's UFO Hunters will follow a team from the New York Strange Phenomena Investigators organization investigating their own set of UFO cases.
The History Channel, which is billing its program as a "a spinoff from the network's hit program 'UFO Hunters' which premiered in 2005," filed a United States Patent and Trademark Office application to trademark the use of the term "UFO Hunters" in "entertainment services, including an on-going television series featuring stories about the paranormal, aliens, and unusual phenomena" as well as "pre-recorded audio and video tapes and discs" on October 31, 2007.
The application, formally filed by A&E Television Networks, The History Channel's corporate parent, was filed under the "use in commerce" basis -- a status used in cases in which the filer is claiming to have already used the term they are attempting to trademark.
The History Channel's UFO Hunters series is being produced by Motion Picture Production, Inc., the same production company that produced UFO Files, an anthology documentary television series that premiered on the network in 2004.
Sci Fi Channel, which originally announced it had ordered a new UFO Hunters reality series produced by the producers of its popular Ghost Hunters reality series last July, filed its trademark application less than a week after The History Channel's filing.
The application, filed on November 5, 2007 by Pilgrim Films and Television, the production company behind both Ghost Hunters and UFO Hunters, attempts to trademark the use of the term "UFO Hunters" with regard to "entertainment services in the nature of an on-going reality-based television program," as well as in websites and fan clubs. Since it isn't claiming any prior use of the term, Pilgrim's "UFO Hunters" request was filed under the "intent to use" basis.
So far, neither trademark application has been assigned an examiner or advanced beyond the initial filing stage -- an unsurprising development given the approval process can take several years.
At first glance, its earlier filing status and (albeit potentially questionable) history of previous use might appear to give The History Channel a stronger case, but that doesn't necessarily mean the network's claim will eventually be granted.
When contacted by Reality TV World last week, both networks acknowledged being aware of the other network's program but stated they were not aware of any plans to change their own program's title. However unlike The History Channel, which plans to air its UFO Hunters program weekly in the Wednesdays 10 PM/PT time period after its premiere, Sci Fi Channel, which says its UFO Hunters program is "still in development" and is billing its January 30 broadcast a "special," has not currently scheduled any additional broadcasts.
Somewhat ironically, both the Sci Fi Channel and The History Channel share some common corporate ownership. Sci Fi Channel is owned by NBC Universal while A&E Television Networks is a joint venture between The Hearst Corporation, ABC Inc., and NBC Universal.