Author: Valerie Roque

‘Tango & Cash’ skirt miffed Texas teen’s suit

What’s in a name and a little cross-dressing? Well, neither may not be a successful source for litigation in Texas. A federal court in Austin has dismissed Gabriel Seale’s complaint against Warner Bros Entertainment, asserting that the studio’s Tango & Cash movie, specifically the character Gabriel Cash, defamed, libeled and slandered Seale because they share the same first name. (Thanks to entlawdigest.com opinion here.) Seale watched the cop-bro flick in 1990 with a group of friends, in Modesto, Calif., at age  16 and claimed his reputation was harmed. He says he was teased by friends because he shares the same first name as the protagonist Cash (Kurt Russell) who in the film dresses as a “woman with lipstick, a woman’s miniskirt, and woman’s high heel shoes.” Let’s see how the court decided to tell this plaintiff to take a powder: To prevail with a defamation claim, Seale had to prove that Warner Brothers “(1) Published a statement; (2) that was defamatory concerning the plaintiff; (3) while acting with negligence regarding the truth.”  Additionally, “[a]n action for libel requires a publication to a third party of written defamatory words about the Plaintiff, while slander requires defamatory words about the plaintiff to be spoke, without legal excuse to a third party.” The court, which allowed him to proceed in indigent status, ruled that Seal failed to prove that WB published a defamatory...

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After a first sniff, ‘Twilight’ case will go on

A federal court in New York has denied Bath & Body Works’ request for summary judgment against Summit Entertainment’s claim that the retailers’ use of “Twilight Woods” and “Twilight Crush” infringed the entertainment company’s trademarks, trade dress, and engaged in willful false designation of origin and created trademark dilution in the film-hit Twilight. In Auust, 2008, Bath and Body began developing a woods-scented personal product care line for launch in Fall, 2009.  After a series of brainstorming meetings and informal customer tests, the retailers’ team decided on the name “Twilight Woods” for their new line. On Nov. 21, 2008, Summit Entertainment released Twilight, a feature based on the books by Stephanie Meyers,  telling tales of teenage human, vampire and wolf relationships set against frigid, bucolic backdrop of Forks, Wash.  Twilight proved to be a blockbuster, grossing more than $397 million and creating twi-hard fans fervid for either “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.” A Twilight sequel, New Moon, grossed $700 million and “each of Twilight’s subsequent movies grossed over $690 million,” the court noted. With a big-money franchise potentially affected, how did the court decide to let this litgation go on? The court noted that Summit — now a subsidiary of Lionsgate — owns forty trademark registrations in Twilight and these include categories “for clothing, candles and purses and other bags.”  Summit also holds a trademark in Nox Twilight for...

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Poof! Teller wins judgment over ‘Shadows’

  Shazam — a federal court in Las Vegas has granted summary judgment in favor Teller (one of the master magicians who make up Penn & Teller) on his claim that Gerard Dogge’s YouTube video performances of The Rose and Her Shadow infringes the master illusionist’s copyrighted (and signature) act, Shadows.  (Thanks to Hollywood Reporter, opinion can be read here.)   Seeing shadows  The court describes Shadows thusly: “[A] spotlight trained on a vase containing a single rose. The light falls in such a manner that the shadow of the rose is projected onto a white screen positioned some distance behind it. Teller then enters the otherwise still scene, picks up a large knife, and proceeds to use the knife to dramatically sever the leaves and petals of the rose’s shadow on the screen slowly, one-by-one, whereupon the corresponding leaves of the real rose sitting in the vase fall to the ground, breaking from the stem at the point where Teller cut the shadow.  The scene closes with Teller pricking his thumb with the knife, and holding his hand in front of the canvas. A silhouette of a trail of blood appears, trickling down the canvas just below the shadow of Teller’s hand. Teller then wipes his hand across the ‘blood’ shadow, leaving a crimson streak upon the canvas.” Whereas The Rose and Her Shadow consists of: “[O]pen[ing] with a spotlight trained...

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‘Oh, Really?’ Naughty judges and ‘Mother’

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise. With tens of millions of TV viewers tuned this week to see the answer to the nine-year question posed by the series How I Met Your Mother, for judicious reasons it’s a good time to reflect on this show’s episode titled Twelve Horny Women. Sitcom lawyer Marshall Eriksen, as played by Jason Segel, should have a slam-dunk case but cannot get anywhere with the judge or jury because opposing counsel, his law school pal Brad Morris (portrayed by Joe Manganiello), flexes his sculpted muscles, flashes his pearly white smile, and lures the all-female-jury with romance novel good looks. He woos all in the courtroom with his story of heartbreak after being recently dumped by his longtime girlfriend. And not even the judge can resist — he allows Brad to act in this manner and even encourages it.  In one scene, Brad drops his pen to the floor, and when he goes to pick it up, he does so by flaunting his back-side to the judge and jury, then, slowly and seductively picks the pen up.  A frustrated Marshall says, “Objection!” yet the judge, with a grin on his face, gleam in his...

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Court tosses much of a ‘Curve’ claim

Baseball is back and with  opening day officially launched on Monday, fans of  the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners were not the only sports enthusiasts  with reason to celebrate. Warner Bros. scored a home run when a U.S. District Court in Southern California recently granted WB’s motion for summary judgment because plaintiffs Gold Glove Productions and writer Ryan Brooks had failed to meet their burden in showing that Brooks’ Omaha was substantially similar to Trouble with the Curve, written by Randy Brown and starring Clint Eastwood.  The court stated, “that any similarities between the two works are not protectable as a matter of copyright law.”  (Thanks to Loeb & Loeb, LLP., the court’s full opinion can be reviewed here.) Brooks and Gold Glove Productions sued WB in October, 2013, asserting that Curve intentionally infringed his copyrighted screenplay, Omaha. When reviewing the issue of whether the works were substantially similar, the District Court followed the guidance of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in employing two tests — the “intrinsic test” and the “extrinsic test,” and “[a]t summary judgment, courts apply only the extrinsic test.”  “The extrinsic test…focuses on articulable similarities between the plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events in two works….A court must take care to inquire only whether the protect[able] elements, standing alone, are substantially similar.”  And “[c]opyright...

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