Spooky Winchester Mystery House Loses Trademark Dispute

Just in time for Halloween, a trademark dispute pits the Winchester Mystery House against a moviemaker that released a film called “Haunting of Winchester House.”

California’s Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose upheld dismissal of the Winchester Mystery House suit that claimed unauthorized use of its trademarks and unfair competition by Global Asylum, Inc.

The Winchester Mystery House was begun in 1884 by widow of the Winchester rifle baron and construction kept up daily for 38 years creating a 160-room Victorian mansion.  Sarah Winchester was reportedly told by a psychic that her family was cursed by the spirits of people killed by the Winchester rifle and she would die when the house was finished.

She died in 1922 and only then did construction stop.

In 2008, owners of the house gave rights to a film company to use the site as a location for a movie and rights to use certain trademarks and copyrights.

At the time that the Mystery House owners announced a major motion picture about the mansion, a second company owned by defendants announced on the Internet a competing film tilted Haunting of Winchester House.

That movie included a character of Sarah Winchester, a young daughter and deaf brother, which she did not have.  Photos of a mansion were not the Mystery House.

The Winchester House owners sued.

The panel found the movie title wasn’t a direct reference to the Winchester Mystery House and that its title did not explicitly mislead the public.

The court also found that based on warning letters from Winchester, the film company could not have determined that it was making a film that would interfere with the Winchester authorized movie contract.

The Winchester Mystery House lost and the dismissal of the suit was upheld.

Case: Winchester Mystery House v. Global Asylum, Inc. No. H036253






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