Man’s Claim that Studios Stole His “Gilligan’s Island” Script Destined to Sink?

August 29th, 2014 by

g-postA three hour tour and a three hour trial? A man claims that Warner Bros. and the other companies and people behind the remake of the new Gilligan’s Island movie stole his script about seven castaways from the “hood” and he wants the production shut down. There is a big problem for the plaintiff though: his alleged script is unauthorized.

Gilligan’s Island ran for only 3 seasons starting in 1964 but the show has been popular ever since. It told the story of seven “diverse” castaways who set off for a day trip and end up stranded on a desert island. Eventually, in a television movie made years later, the group gets rescued but then once again gets deserted after taking another cruise. Hollywood, of course, is rebooting the project for a new movie with Josh Gad playing Gilligan.

I must say, I don’t fully understand the basis for this case but here we go. Travis Dunson is a writer that claims to have written a screenplay entitled Gilligan’s Island: 7 Castaways from the Hood and in 2008 got the screenplay into the hands of Warner Bros. executives who “loved it”. Dunson never heard back but in 2011 he learned that WB had produced a screenplay and after reading an online summary, Dunson concluded that it was a copy of his movie. So he sued WB’s for copyright infringement.

So there are a bunch of holes in this complaint. First, the plaintiff has never actually read the script, only an alleged summary, it would be difficult to tell if his screenplay was plagiarized from a summary. Second and more importantly, the plaintiff doesn’t allege to have any rights to use the characters to create the screenplay in the first place. If the plaintiff used the characters and plot line without permission, then he is the one committing copyright infringement. Maybe the Professor can create a device to make this a winning case for plaintiff but I don’t see that one happening.



Posted in Copyrights, Film / Television

“Family Guy” Tweet Gets Marlon Wayans Sued for Discrimination

August 28th, 2014 by

Wayans-TweetComparing an actor to Cleveland of Family Guy may have seemed funny at the time but it got comedian Marlon Wayans in a whole lot of trouble.  Pierre Daniel is suing Wayans for race discrimination, misappropriation of likeness and a whole bunch of other claims due to the tweet.

The 44 page complaint filed against Wayans isn’t the model of legal drafting but we will do our best to decipher the allegations.  Pierre Daniel worked as an actor on the upcoming movie, Haunted House 2….the complaint is not clear as to if Daniel is a star of the movie or a background actor.  During the filming of the movie, Wayans is alleged to have routinely leered, stared and rolled his eyes at Daniel and ridiculed Daniel for having an afro.   On September 4, 2013, Wayans posted a picture on Twitter stating that Daniel looks like Cleveland Brown from  Family Guy and the now cancelled spin-off, The Cleveland Show;  Wayans also used the n word in his tweet.  Daniel fought back by filing this lawsuit.

Daniel claims that Wayans and the movie company, by not stopping the conduct, discriminated against Daniel because he is African-American.  Daniel also claims his image was misappropriated as Wayans did not have permission to use Daniel’s likeness on Wayan’s Twitter feed and website.  Daniel claims that these actions have caused him to suffer emotional and mental distress, embarrassment, fright, shock, anxiety and pain and as a result Daniel needs medical care, X-rays and laboratory exams. Daniel seeks unspecified damages for his 13 causes of action related to this tweet.   Apparently words do hurt and in the case of this plaintiff, they hurt a lot.



Posted in Film / Television, Internet

Porn Classic “Deep Throat” Gets Down and Dirty with “Lovelace”

August 27th, 2014 by

The production company behind one of the most famous adult films of all time, Deep Throat, had their lawsuit against the Weinstein Company dismissed when the court held that the use of the film’s copyrights and trademarks in the bio pic, Lovelace, was Fair Use.

Deep Throat is a famous pornographic film released in 1972 and stars Linda Lovelace. I guess the judge’s law clerks did some in-depth watching on the skin flick because the court’s opinion contains a highly detailed and explicit recital of the movie’s plot…we will refrain from doing so but just leave you with one quote from the court, the film is “replete with explicit sexual scenes and sophomoric humor…”   Besides owning the copyright to the film, the producers are also owners of the LINDA LOVELACE and DEEP THROAT trademarks.

In 2013, the Weinstein Company released the movie, Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried which tells the story of Linda Boreman, the woman who portrayed Linda Lovelace and how she was coerced into the adult film, her later success, and then eventual disdain for the industry.  Much to the law clerks’ chagrin, and they note as such, Lovelace does not contain any pornographic scenes or nudity.

Plaintiffs allege that three scenes from Deep Throat are recreated, in part in, Lovelace. The scenes contained plot, actions and conversations taken from the copyrighted film without permission.  Besides the film being ripped off, plaintiff claims that the trademarks of the film and its star are used without consent.

The court dismissed all of the plaintiff’s claims finding that the movie’s use of copyrighted material fell under the doctrine of Fair Use.  The court found that the use was transformative as it added new, critical perspectives to the Deep Throat movie and that the recreated scenes are markedly different because they contain cuts to actors playing the film’s producers and camera crew. The court also dismissed the trademarks claims finding that plaintiff fails to allege that consumers are likely to be confused by defendants’ conduct.  This case proves that even adult film makers don’t get lucky all the time.





Posted in Copyrights, Film / Television, Trademarks

NCIS’s “Bert the Farting Hippo” Gets CBS Sued for Copyright Infringement

August 26th, 2014 by

I must admit that I have never seen an episode of NCIS but “Bert the Farting Hippo” may convince me to tune in. CBS was sued for copyright infringement for allegedly stealing the look of a puppet hippo and using it to make merchandise branded as “Bert the Farting Hippo”.

For the past 40 years, Folkmanis (yeah, don’t say the name of this company out loud around impressionable youngsters) has been the creator, manufacturer and distributor of fine stuffed animal puppets. In 2002, Folkmanis began distributing its stuffed hippopotamus that can be seen on the left below. In 2003, the puppet started appearing as a prop on the CBS hit show, NCIS, and was accompanied by a dubbed sound effect of a fart attributable to the big guy. The puppet was referenced as “Bert the Farting Hippo” and has appeared on more than a dozen episodes of the show.

In 2010, Folkmanis agreed to produce Bert for sale on CBS’s online store and later made key chains with a smaller version of Bert on them. In 2012, CBS cut out Folkmanis and had a company in China produce another hippo that was still branded as Bert. Folkmanis claims that this new version of Bert is a copy-hippo of their copyrighted version of the animal.

In order to establish copyright infringement, Folkmanis must show that the two works pictured below are substantially similar. Also, a hippo is a hippo and unless there is something unique to a design, the look of a hippo is not protectable under copyright.  Folkmanis seeks profits which it estimates as $733,000. Maybe CBS should have stuck with another stuffed character like “Flatulent Fox”.




Posted in Copyrights, Film / Television, Internet

Tolkien’s Estate Doesn’t Want Anyone Using a “Bagg-ins” Catheter Bag

August 25th, 2014 by

hobbitIf they had Lord of the Rings branded medical devices, who could say no?  Well, the estate of the late author, J.R.R. Tolkien, doesn’t want you to think that you are using a Tolkien branded device as it opposed the trademark registration for a catheter bag called “Bagg-ins”.

bilboMary Marshall Enterprises, Inc. is a medical device company that has several patents on catheter bags.  In September, in association with one of these products, Mary Marshall filed a trademark registration for the term BAGG-INS for “medical devices used for supporting fluid and waste collection bags”.  Hard to tell if the company was paying homage to the Tolkien character but there does not appear to be a hairy-footed hobbit pictured on the bags themselves.

The company that owns Tolkien’s trademark thinks the name of this handy medical device is trying to create some association with its BILBO BAGGINS and FRODO BAGGINS trademarks.  Since 1937, the original publication of The Hobbit, Tolkien and his estate have utilized the Baggins clan and registered trademarks related to the names.  In fact, according to the trademark opposition, behind the Bible the Lord of the Rings is second-most popular among men.

Tolkien’s Estate claims that Mary Marshall knew of the Lord of the Rings books and movies and adopted the BAGG-INS mark in bad faith with intent to cause confusion and deception and to create a false suggestion that the mark is associated with Tolkien’s trademarks and works.  Tolkien’s estate wants the registration refused or it unleashes Smaug.



Posted in Brands, Film / Television, Trademarks

© Copyright 2013-2014, Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP. All Rights Reserved.
Attorney Advertising

This blog is provided as general information for clients and friends of Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP. Content does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice. The contents of this blog may be considered attorney advertising in some states.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP.