Hollywood Docket: Marvin Gaye Family Wants $3.4 Million More in "Blurred Lines" Lawsuit

Some new developments on the entertainment legal trail including a dispute over whether the logo on Superman's chest is protected by copyright law.
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Although the copyright dispute over "Blurred Lines" is now headed to an appellate court, there is one big issue remaining for a trial court in the dispute between Marvin Gaye's family and Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.

On Monday, Richard Busch and other attorneys representing the Gayes submitted a motion to a California judge requesting about $2.66 million in attorneys' fees and $777,000 in allowable expenses.

The Gayes emerged mostly victorious at a trial last March when a jury came back with a $7.4 million verdict. The judge later trimmed the amount to $5.3 million and granted a request for an ongoing royalty rate of 50 percent of songwriter and publishing revenues.

In the motion yesterday (read here), Nona and Frankie Gaye proclaim themselves the prevailing party entitled to their fees and expenses. They say they originally reached out to Thicke's camp to discuss the belief that "Blurred Lines" was copied from Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up," and rather than working out a licensing deal, the other side hit them with a lawsuit seeking a declaration of non-infringement.

"They made a brave decision to fight when sued and to protect the copyright to one of the most iconic songs of all time, despite being threatened themselves with an award of fees, which would have been economically disastrous to them," states the motion.

Busch's firm says it spent 6,033 hours on the case, and there's also money being requested for others. For instance the $3.4 million requested covers the work of transactional lawyer Mark Levinsohn and experts including Gary Cohen, Nancie Stern and Judith Finell who testified.

In other entertainment law news:

-The clothing company behind a shirt that puts the word "dad" where Superman's "S" would be is now seeking a declaratory judgment that Warner Bros. and DC Comics doesn't own any enforceable federal copyright interest in the Superman Shield. Last July, Mad Engine was hit with a lawsuit that claimed it had violated copyright and trademark rights to the iconic shield logo. According to crossclaims filed on Friday, after Mad Engine filed a motion to dismiss that asserted its own design was parody, DC Comics brought an amended complaint without the copyright infringement claims. Mad Engine nevertheless wants to litigate over the issue. "Counterdefendants' assertion of a copyright interest in the Superman Shield is legally defective because, inter alia, the Superman Shield lacks the necessary creativity to be copyrightable, i.e. it would have to exhibit both independent creation and at least some minimal degree of creativity," states Mad Engine's court papers (read here).

-Nick Katsoris, the general counsel of conglomerate Red Apple Group and the author of several children's books, has brought a lawsuit against Viacom, WME and IMG Productions alleging infringement of a "dream day" concept he created in conjunction with a lamb character called Loukoumi. In the complaint (read here), he says that many celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman and Eli Manning endorsed his books, which earmarks a portion of profits to charities, and that in 2012 he pitched a reality show to IMG and Nickelodeon. He now asserts that Nickelodeon's "I Wanna Be" series, to star NFL star Cam Newton leading children in living out their dreams and meeting celebrities, has violated his rights associated with his own project. Katsoris says he has been in discussions with the Discovery Channel, but Nickelodeon's show threaten to harm his Loukoumi program. He's seeking an injunction.

-Next week, a big trial commences in New York.  Baseball fans look to establish that MLB, Comcast and DirecTV violate antitrust law by forbidding teams to independently sell telecasts outside of home markets. We've already presented the procompetitive justifications that MLB is offering in an attempt to rebut the allegations, but what about Comcast and DirecTV?  In a trial memorandum (read here) that's now gone public, the television defendants preview their own defense. They wave off any conspiracy. "There is nothing improper about a supplier (a team) licensing its intellectual property (live game telecast rights) to a distributor (RSN) subject to the supplier’s unilaterally imposed conditions (territorial rules)," states the memo. "Simply put, the RSNs licensed rights subject to League rules because they could not buy them any other way."

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