I’ve been watching this case closely for nearly two years, fascinated by the question of whether a”mash-up” of two separate intellectual properties (in this case STAR TREK and DR. SEUSS) could be successfully defended against a copyright infringement lawsuit using a defense of FAIR USE.
And yesterday, we discovered that the answer is officially “YES.”
For a more complete history of this case, check out any of my previous 15 blogs on the subject (I told you I was watching it closely!). In short, DAVID GERROLD (the creator of the tribbles) and TY TEMPLETON (award-winning comic book artist) set out to create a Seuss/Trek mash-up book called Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!
Together with their publisher ComicMix, they set up a Kickstarter in late 2016 to fund a run of 5,000 printed copies of the book to sell through ThinkGeek. They raised about $30,000 when Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) contacted Kickstarter with a DMCA takedown notice. The money was never collected.
Six weeks later, DSE sued the mash-up team for both copyright and trademark infringement. The case was an emotional rollercoaster ride for both sides, with the judge at one point dismissing the trademark claims and then later (after a re-refiling by DSE) reinstating the trademark claims.
On the copyright complaint side of things (different than trademark), the judge was ready to dismiss the case outright on grounds of Fair Use, but she gave DSE one chance to prove market harm by Team Mash-up. DSE was able to make a strong enough argument for financial damages that the judge allowed the case to move forward. That was 14 months ago.
The case has been complex, to say the least! And it had the potential, according to Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO, to quite literally determine the fate of nearly all mash-ups well into the future. Would this new art form die in its infancy? Was it even a true art form? All of her rulings were carefully considered, and nothing was rushed.
After more than two years of legal wrangling, filings, responses, discovery and evidence and testimony, and motions for summary judgement, it all came down to pre-trial oral arguments made in Judge Sammartino’s San Diego Courtroom five weeks ago on February 7.
So what exactly happened, and is this case finally over…?Continue reading “Take that, DR. SEUSS; TREK MASH-UP is legally FAIR USE!”