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Oscar Contender 'The Illusionist' at Center of Trademark War

Illusion is defined as something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality. 

That pretty much sums up what's involved in a trademark dispute too, and is exactly what Sony Pictures Classics is claimed to be doing with a planned November release of The Illusionist.

SPC's problem is that just four years ago, another film entitled The Illusionist came out. That movie was based on a short story, Eisenheim the Illusionist, written by Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Steven Millhauser. The 2006 film starred Ed Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti. It grossed $87 million worldwide and earned an Oscar nomination for cinematography. It's now available via the home video market.

Illusionist Distribution, LLC, claims to be the rights-holder of that film, and is upset that Sony intends to release its Illusionist, with a "strikingly similar" storyline about a touring master illusionist who falls in love. 

The new film was produced by France-based Pathe Pictures and is directed by Sylvain Chomet, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated film for his previous effort, The Triplets of Belleville. His latest work has gotten tremendous buzz is said to be an awards contender too.

That's if it comes out and doesn't just magically disappear.

Illusionist Distribution has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against SPC and Pathe on grounds of trademark infringement and unfair competition, asking a judge to enjoin the November release of The Illusionist. The company is also seeking disgorgement of all profits plus compensatory damages.

According to the complaint, Sony's "distribution and release of the Infringing Picture would likely cause substantial confusion or mistake and mislead a substantial number of consumers as to whether the Infringing Picture is affiliated, associated, or connected with the identically titled 'The Illusionist.'"