Manos: The Hands of Fate fell into the public domain in 1966 due to Hal Warren, the film’s director, not having the film copyrighted, and the freedom of access allowed by the public domain is what eventually enabled it to find an audience. However, Joe Warren, one of Hal’s children, is now seeking to trademark the phrase “Manos: The Hands of Fate” 50 years after the fact for his exclusive use.
Manos, a low budget horror movie made by locals in El Paso, Texas, was called by Entertainment Weekly the “worst film ever made”. While that claim has always been debatable, there can be no doubt that this tale of a Texan family on a road trip running afoul of a polygamous death cult in the desert has provided a great deal of fertile ground for humor and creative inspiration ever since its release. The successful registration of this trademark would threaten the numerous incarnations of Manos: The Hands of Fate, past and present- particularly the creative works that have come from the movie being in the public domain- with legal liability for trademark infringement.
Not only will the release of the film itself in any form become vulnerable, but projects such as the independent sequel Manos Returns, the puppet adaptation Manos: The Hands of Felt, two coloring books, a video game, a memoir, Growing up With Manos The Hands Of Fate, two fiction books, multiple stage productions, and a number of creative fan projects, are now in danger.
Joe Warren has attempted, without success, to extract financial payment from numerous parties in the past incorrectly claiming “copyright infringement” on this public domain work. There is no reason to think that he will not continue the same activities if granted a trademark, however questionable it may be. We’ve seen Joe deploy these tactics against the numerous creative uses of the film since its release, and even against the restoration and preservation of the film itself.
This trademark was recently approved for publication. Due to Mr. Warren filing an Intent to Use 1(b) Trademark Application (in other words, he has not shown any use of the mark yet), the typical scrutiny given to a 1(a) Trademark Application (one that shows actual use of the mark in commerce) for a Title of a Single Work is not present. However, the window for an outside party to challenge the mark does not change, and there is no further opportunity for opposition from outside parties after this initial publication period.
An initial Letter of Protest will be filed shortly with the US Patent and Trademark Office- however, due to USPTO rules, it will be necessary to gain an extension to file the Notice of Opposition once the mark is published for opposition at the end of February. We hope the Letter of Protest will be enough to prevent registration, but there is no guarantee that it will be granted and the scope of issues allowed to be addressed by the Letter of Protest are limited. Filing a Notice of Opposition is extremely costly. The total cost of Attorney Fees for the Notice of Opposition, the extension, and all filing fees is estimated to be around $7,000. Additional funds will further help us offset the costs involved.
Simply put, we have one brief chance to fix this problem, and we will need your support in this battle if we want to see it through. Jackey Neyman Jones (child star of the film and daughter of lead actor Tom Neyman) and Benjamin Solovey (producer of the Manos: The Hands of Fate restoration) have established a legal fund to cover the filing fees and attorney’s costs to protect the right to access for all. This case will be handled by Ian K. Friedman, Esq., an Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Attorney who has come to the defense of the film’s public domain status in the past. If you have enjoyed any of the free and legal uses of “Manos: The Hands of Fate” over the years, we hope you’ll help us to protect past, present and future access to the film and title by contributing to it.