HBO, the producers of the popular television series GAME OF THRONES has filed an opposition  against two trademark applications filed by The Trustees of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to register the marks GAME OF THORNS and this stylized version:
However unless the thought is that consumers won’t notice the difference between THRONES and THORNS, or are likely to believe that HBO misspelled its name, confusion seems unlikely. HBO also alleges dilution:
It does not seem that a botanic garden is likely to tarnish the image of the world of Westeros and Essos, and as with the likelihood of confusion, tarnishment by blurring would seem to require that consumers won’t notice the difference between THRONES and THORNS, or are likely to believe that HBO misspelled its name.
The Botanic Garden is clearly making a pun — one of those groan-inducing jokes based on words that sound similar but have dissimilar meanings. While many regard puns as the lowest form of humor, are they prohibited by trademark law? It seems that if most people get the joke, there can be no likelihood of confusion or dilution, because getting the joke relies upon knowing the difference between a throne and a thorn. Not getting the joke, however, might indicate at last a possibility of confusion, and trademark law might apply.
While we don’t want trademark law interfering with good jokes, if it can stop bad jokes, that’s probably a good thing. We will have to wait to see whether or not the TTAB gets the joke.