Moviegoers in Miami were likely saddened by the news that renowned film critic Roger Ebert passed away after struggling with cancer for many years. While he was known for his ability to provide reviews that appealed to a wide audience, many may not know that Ebert’s signature phrase — “two thumbs up” — was also his intellectual property. Now, it’s likely that his estate owns or will soon own his share of that trademark.

When Ebert teamed up with Gene Siskel on their long-running television program, they became known for giving films a thumb up or thumb down rating. If both critics agreed that a movie was worth seeing, they would give it “two thumbs up,” which is a phrase they created. Since this saying was essential to their brand and identity as critics and become a commonly used phrase, they understood that registering a trademark would be in their best interests.

Both Siskel and Ebert had ownership of saying, so it is likely controlled now by their respective estates. As such, the hope is that both men designated a trustworthy person to carefully manage their intellectual property interests. This trademark, depending on the exact legal arrangement, is likely to remain in effect for many more years.

Anyone working in the entertainment industry knows how valuable their personal creations are, which is why intellectual property rights are so important. For example, if other movie critics were to use the “two thumbs up” designation without approval, the Siskel and Ebert brand wouldn’t be as authoritative.

Of course, managing intellectual property is not an easy task. As such, aspiring and well-established entertainers alike can benefit from advice when it comes to protecting their professional identity.

Source: Yahoo Movies, “Roger Ebert: 8 Things You Might Not Have Known,” Mark Deming, April 4, 2013

  • To learn more about trademarks and other entertainment law topics discussed in this post, please visit our Miami intellectual property page.