Entertainment IP Litigation is a hybrid of our Entertainment and Intellectual Property Litigation practice areas. This specialty practice area allows us to take advantage of our in-depth industry knowledge to help individuals, companies, and celebrity estates defend their valuable creations, brands, names and assets, which, unless protected, can leave them exposed and vulnerable. This includes assisting entertainment companies and individuals in copyright and trademark infringement litigation, disputes concerning publicity rights, endorsements and licensing deals, and disputes over new and emerging platforms, such as social media.
Entertainment IP Litigation
- Representation of the successor to the Estate of Marilyn Monroe in a licensing dispute with a former licensee seeking roughly $7 million in damages after the estate terminated its trademark license agreement. Following a week-long arbitration in Chicago, the three arbitrator panel unanimously decided in the estate’s favor and awarded the Claimant nothing. The panel also awarded the estate roughly $300,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
- The representation of Greg Garrison (until his death in March 2005), and then the Executor and Trustee of Mr. Garrison’s Estate and Trust (Ronald L. Blanc, Esq.). Mr. Garrison was the director and producer of the legendary Dean Martin Variety Shows in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Mr. Garrison acquired the rights to certain of those television shows, which he then edited into a highly successful series of DVDs and VHS tapes sold by Guthy-Renker Corporation. In connection with that representation, we have handled the following matters:
- NBC Universal filed a copyright infringement action against the Executor/Trustee and others, alleging that Mr. Garrison infringed upon its copyrights in creating the Guthy-Renker series. The action was favorably resolved.
- Several musical composers filed a copyright infringement action against the Executor/Trustee and others, alleging that Mr. Garrison infringed upon their copyrights in creating the Guthy-Renker series. The action was successfully resolved.
- Representation of the Estate of Michael Jackson with respect to IP issues, including copyright, trademark, the unauthorized use of Michael Jackson’s name, likeness and persona.
- Representation of singer/songwriter Jackson Browne in a highly publicized lawsuit against Senator John McCain, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party for the use of Browne’s famous song “Running on Empty” in a campaign commercial during McCain’s 2008 campaign for President. The settlement of the case included a public apology and a pledge by the Republican National Committee to obtain licenses for the use of copyrighted materials in future campaigns.
- Representation of David Byrne, leader of the celebrated band Talking Heads, against former Florida Governor Charlie Crist for copyright infringement based on the unlicensed use of Byrne’s song “Road To Nowhere” in a campaign commercial, as well as a claim for trademark infringement based on the unauthorized use of Byrne’s endorsement. In April 2011, the firm obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of Byrne. Securing another victory for artists’ rights, the settlement included a video apology from Crist posted on YouTube.
- Representation of Sanctuary Records, Ltd. in an action brought by Beach Boy Mike Love for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, Lanham Act violations, and unfair business practices stemming from a promotional CD with Brian Wilson containing recordings of Beach Boys songs. KWIKA obtained summary judgment on behalf of Sanctuary.
- Representation of the Kardashians in three separate actions arising out of their endorsement activities:
- Kim Kardashian was dragged into a dispute between two competitors that market and sell laser hair removal products. In this action filed in federal court in San Francisco, the company that hired Kim to endorse their product (TRIA Beauty) filed a false advertising and Lanham Act lawsuit against their rival, Radiancy, Inc. Several months later, Radiancy filed a counterclaim against TRIA and Kim, claiming that Kim in her role as spokesperson repeated misleading claims about TRIA’s products. The form obtained Kim’s dismissal from the lawsuit.
- The defense of Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, who were named in a class action complaint filed in federal court in New York against the company that developed and distributes the QuickTrim weight loss products, for which the Kardashians serve as spokespersons.
- The defense of Kris Jenner in a breach of contract action filed in federal court in Ohio arising out of her endorsement of a beauty product, in which Ms. Jenner has asserted counterclaims for breach of contract.
- Representation of Paris Hilton in a federal action to shut down the website “ParisExposed.com.” The website was created to showcase numerous personal articles, including photos, videos, and medical records that belonged to Ms. Hilton and were obtained from a public storage unit leased by her. KWIKA obtained a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction based upon claims for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement.
- Representation of Mattel, Inc. in filing a lawsuit against a writer who waited over 30 years to first make a claim to copyright ownership of certain aspects of the world-famous Masters of the Universe toy brand and associated film, television and merchandising rights.
- The representation of writer/director Jim Jarmusch, Universal Studios, Focus Features, and producer Glenn Rigberg in an idea theft and copyright lawsuit regarding the motion picture Broken Flowers. KWIKA obtained the dismissal of the case.
- The representation of Starz as plaintiff in an action against Disney distributor Buena Vista Television (“BVT”) concerning electronic distribution rights on the Internet. Starz provides premium entertainment programming to cable and satellite systems through its movie channels, and also provides its customers with Internet access to feature films. In order to do so, Starz enters into long-term license agreements or “output agreements” with studios that produce and/or distribute motion pictures, including Defendant BVT. Notwithstanding the clear restrictions placed on BVT’s Internet rights during Starz’s exclusive license periods, BVT sold for transmission over the Internet via services like Apple’s iTunes the very same Disney Pictures licensed to Starz. In its Complaint filed in March 2007, Starz alleges that BVT’s actions materially breach the parties’ License Agreements and infringe Starz’s exclusive copyrights in the Pictures. The case was settled on the eve of trial.
- The representation of Mattel, Inc. in two idea submission cases asserted against Mattel’s very successful “Barbie: Fairytopia” DVDs and related line of products. The first case resulted in a month long trial ending in a jury verdict for Mattel. The second case, filed by a plaintiff in Texas, was favorably resolved after KWIKA filed a motion for summary judgment.
- Representation of a ticket purchaser/reseller accused by Ticketmaster of copyright infringement for the use of software bots to copy Ticketmaster website pages in order to purchase large quantities of concert tickets.