DR. SEUSS / STAR TREK Mash-up takes a HIT in its INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT! (part 1)

If you’re Star Trek “Tribbles” creator DAVID GERROLD and comic book artist TY TEMPLETON, one of the places you’ll boldly go next year will be to the Ninth Circuit federal courtroom!

Actually, they and their lawyers have already been spending a good deal of time in front of Judge JANIS L. SAMMARTINO… defending themselves from a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit filed by DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE) against them and publisher ComicMix in late 2016.

At issue was a “mash-up” project combining elements of Star Trek with the whimsical rhyming and artistic styles of the late Dr. Seuss into a book titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!  In September of 2016, a Kickstarter for the project took in $30,000.  However, DSE quickly asserted their intellectual property rights, and Kickstarter promptly shut down the campaign and froze the pledged donations.  Then things went to court.

Earlier this year, the situation looked somewhat hopeful for “Team Mash-up,” as I like to call them.  The judge in the lawsuit dismissed the trademark claim entirely (it would no longer be a part of the lawsuit), and she said that the fair use aspect of the remaining copyright infringement complaint was “evenly balanced” between the plaintiff and the defendants.  And even better than that, if DSE couldn’t prove to the judge’s satisfaction that there were real financial damages at stake (at that point, she was simply giving them the benefit of the doubt), then this lawsuit might be dismissed entirely before it ever saw a jury, and fans would likely be reading a Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up book by next Christmas.

What a difference six months make!  This infringement lawsuit suddenly reminds me of a famous football game from 1993 between the Houston Oilers and the Buffalo Bills that has become known as “The Comeback.”  Houston was leading by a massive score of 28-3 at halftime.  But by the end of the game, Buffalo had won in overtime 41-38.

And while the “game” in this mash-up lawsuit isn’t over just yet, if you’re a fan of David Gerrold and Ty Templeton (as I am), it’s suddenly nail-biting time.

Here’s the latest…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS / STAR TREK Mash-up takes a HIT in its INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT! (part 1)”

DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: What happens next? (Part 3)

Feel free to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already.  This time, we’re going to look at is the state of the Dr. Seuss/Star Trek “mash-up” lawsuit as it stands right now.

Initially , there were three legal complaints filed by the plaintiffs, Dr. Seuss Enterprises:

  1. Copyright infringement
  2. Trademark infringement
  3. Unfair competition

Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court dismissed the second and third complaints, leaving only the copyright infringement claim as the lawsuit…and that one was “nearly perfectly balanced” based on the “fair use” defense.

But the judge did give the plaintiff a “second chance” to get those two dismissed claims back.  She gave them two weeks to file an amended complaint that might change her mind about dismissing trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The plaintiff did, indeed, re-file an Amended Complaint.  Not surprisingly, the defendants then filed a new Motion to Dismiss.

The plaintiff wants their two dismissed claims back.  The defendant would like to keep those two claims dismissed and, if possible, dismiss the final copyright claim and end the lawsuit completely.

Will either side succeed?  Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: What happens next? (Part 3)”

DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: A “near-perfect balancing” of FAIR USE factors! (Part 2)

Last time, we began looking at the intriguing case of the Dr. Seuss/Star Trek “mash-up” book Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! by DAVID GERROLD and TY TEMPLETON.  Last November, they got sued by Dr. Seuss Enterprises for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.  The defense quickly filed a motion to dismiss the case.  After a brief extension, the judge issued a ruling last month.  (For more details, read yesterday’s blog.)

The motion to dismiss centered around the “mash-up” being protected as “fair use.”  And while judges do not usually rule on fair use this early in a case, the Honorable Janis L. Sammartino of the 9th Circuit Federal Court did (again for reasons explained in yesterday’s blog).

So did the fair use defense work or not?  What did the judge say???

In short, it’s a tie.  She called it a “near-perfect balancing of the factors” of fair use.  And what does that mean?  Get comfy, folks, ’cause Jonny’s gonna do his best to break this down into layperson’s English for you all…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: A “near-perfect balancing” of FAIR USE factors! (Part 2)”

DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK “Mash-Up” files new MOTION TO DISMISS! (Part 1)

Last week, I wrote a blog about what is rapidly becoming the second biggest copyright infringement lawsuit involving Star Trek in the last year.  But this time it isn’t CBS and Paramount doing the suing, it’s Dr. Seuss Enterprises.  And the target isn’t a fan film but rather a “mash-up” book that takes the characters, settings, and concepts of Star Trek and presents them in a style inspired by (the plaintiffs say “slavishly copied from”) the classics of Dr. Seuss.

The authors of the mash-up, entitled Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!, include Star Trek “The Trouble with Tribbles” writer DAVID GERROLD and award-winning comic book artist TY TEMPLETON.  Together with their publisher, ComicMix, they were sued last November for both copyright and trademark infringement, along with unfair competition, by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the owners of all the works of Dr. Seuss.  This lawsuit is seeking $150,000 in damages per infringement (of which there were multiple instances provided in the filing), for a potential judgment in the MILLIONS!  And all of this for a small, grass-roots book project that took in only $30,000 in a Kickstarter last September (pledged money that is now being held by Kickstarter pending the outcome of this case) and has never been published.

(If you’re wondering how the non-publication of a book could cost the copyright owners millions of dollars in damages, well, sit tight.  We’ll get to that in part 2.)

Anyway, last month, the judge in the case, the Honorable Janis L. Sammartino of the 9th Circuit Federal Court (yeah, the same court where the Axanar case was filed—but a totally different judge), made a series of significant pre-trial rulings.  Among these were the dismissal of the trademark infringement and unfair competition portions of the complaint and declaring that the fair use defense was valid but still “too close to call” (my words, not hers) due to a lack of evidence of financial harm.

Many thought the case was pretty much over, but it wasn’t.  So what happens now?

If you’re thinking this is gonna be another one of Jonathan’s long legal blogs, you’re probably right.  But I’ll be walking you through it in helpful layperson’s English…and I guarantee you’ll come out of it much better informed.  Ready?

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK “Mash-Up” files new MOTION TO DISMISS! (Part 1)”