Many well-known landmarks, like the Empire State Building, are protected as trademarks. This trademark status may be used by trademark holders to attempt to control or limit the depictions of those landmarks in artistic works like feature films. Using the trademarked Hollywood Sign as an example, this article examines the status of landmarks as trademarks as well as the protections trademark holders have over unauthorized depictions of trademarked landmarks through actions for trademark infringement or trademark dilution. Concluding that trademark dilution is more likely the proper cause of action for the unauthorized depiction of trademarks in films, this article then examines the significant protections filmmakers are given under federal trademark dilution law when the depictions qualify as noncommercial uses or descriptive or nominative fair uses.
Joel Timmer, The Depiction of Trademarked Landmarks in Fictional Films: Protecting Filmmakers from Infringement and Dilution Liability, 15 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 676 (2016)