'Love' goes wrong; both prepare suits

'Love Berlin' producers will be taken to trial

CANNES -- The "Love" spat, as they often do, has gone legal.

A lawyer representing Emmanuel Benbihy, the French producer of "Paris, Je t'aime" and "New York, I Love You," says they will take the producers of omnibus feature "Love Berlin -- How We Met" to trial for infringement of copyright and unfair competition. The "Love Berlin" principles -- Visitor Pictures, Sherazade Films, and the Very Useful Co. -- are preparing a counter suit against Benbihy.

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On Tuesday, a court representative served "Love Berlin" world sales agent Telepool a notice of seizure, the first step in a possible trial, said Sebastien Haas, the lawyer who successfully represented Benbihy in a similar case against French producer Claudie Ossard in 2006.

However, since "Love Berlin" has not yet begun production, there was very little to seize. Telepool said the representative took a photo of their stand in Cannes and a copy of the flyer the company is using to promote the film.

"He asked me if we had pre-sold the film anywhere, I told him no," Telepool exec Irina Ignatiew told THR. "Then he took the flyer and left. But it is still business as usual. We are still discussing the project with buyers and advertising it here in Cannes."

Benbihy claims the producers of "Love Berlin" are ripping off his "Love Cities" omnibus format, in which a series of directors shoot short films on the theme of love, relationships and encounters taking place in the film's title city. A number of the "Love Berlin" producers were involved in either "Paris Je t'aime" or "New York, I Love You."

Benbihy is currently putting together financing for versions of his "Love" format set in Shanghai, Jerusalem and Rio and claims having another love-themed city project out there creates "consumer confusion."

The people behind "Love Berlin" say the project is substantially different from the format and say they will file a countersuit demanding damages from Benbihy.

Directors Shekhar Kapur, Neil LaBute and Oren Moverman have joined the "Love Berlin" project. Shooting is planned for later this year, assuming the legal issues are sorted out first.
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