Hollywood Docket: 'Wedding Crashers,' 'Lost' Lawsuits Dismissed; Frank Ocean Sued
Here are some disputes that have gained judicial attention, including a "SpongeBob SquarePants Ukulele" and the WWE's use of popular '80s wrestler "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers.
New Line Cinema won't have to worry about anyone crashing the financial bonanza of Wedding Crashers, its 2005 film that grossed more than $200 million theatrically and more than $200 million in DVD sales in the United States.
Last week, a California appeals court denied efforts by an individual who claimed to have pitched a motion picture project on party crashing.
Neil Portman alleged that in 2002, he had delivered to New Line a submission letter, a book entitled "The Party Crasher's Handbook" and a copy of a document that gave him exclusive film rights on the property. He says that he told New Line that he was in active discussion with United Talent Agency over the project.
New Line responded with a letter that rejected the pitch, but Portman says that he, New Line and UTA engaged in "ongoing and protracted dialogue" on the project until talks were cut off. After the release of Wedding Crashers, Portman sued. His claims wound up being breach of written contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, fraud and deceit, and breach of good faith and fair dealing.
The lawsuit fails partly because Portman has made "no allegation that New Line ever agreed in writing that it would take on Portman's project or compensate Portman for anything," and largely because he failed to make viable claims within the statute of limitations.
A spokesperson for New Line parent Warner Bros comments, "We are pleased that the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Mr. Portman’s case.”
In other entertainment law news:
- In another "idea submission" case, writer Anthony Spinner's lawsuit against ABC over the hit drama, Lost, has also been rejected. Spinner, an Emmy-award winning producer and former creative vice president of Fox, alleged he had submitted in 1977 a script entitled "L.O.S.T." about a U.S. Olympic team whose plane crashes in the Himalayas. The executives behind ABC's 2004-2010 show, including Lloyd Braun, Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, all said they never heard of Spinner nor knew his work, and a California appeals court is satisfied that "ABC presented conclusive and uncontradicted evidence of independent creation." Here's the full ruling.
- Grammy-winning singer Frank Ocean has been caught up in a dust-up between two producers. Micah Otano has filed a lawsuit against Ocean, Malay, Universal Music Group and others on various claims that add up to him not getting credit on the hit song, "Lost," off of Ocean's Chanel ORANGE. Otano says he performed lead synthesizer and piano and contributed to drum programming on a song that was incorporated into "Lost," and that Malay agreed to a co-producer credit. "There is arguably no more shameful act -- in either the music world or the non-music world -- than to take credit for someone else's hard work under false pretenses," says the lawsuit. "The pop band Milli Vanilli learned this lesson the hard way ..." Ocean's reps haven't yet responded to our request for comment. Here's the full complaint that was filed.
- Viacom has gotten a judge to reject the initial version of a lawsuit over a "SpongeBob SquarePants Ukulele." The claims came from Gibson Guitar Corp., which asserted that the owner of the Nickelodeon TV network was promoting various products that infringed its trademark rights to the words and design of the "Flying V," its more than five-decade-old electric guitar known for its distinctive look. The judge decided that Gibson wasn't specific enough in making allegations against Viacom versus its U.K.-based licensee John Hornby Skewes & Co. The judge is allowing Gibson to amend its complaint, so this lawsuit might not be completely finished. Here's the ruling.
- World Wrestling Entertainment has body-slammed a lawsuit brought by popular '80s wrestler "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers. The lawsuit contended that Somers' privacy and publicity rights were being violated by the WWE in various products and on the WWE's website. Somers said he hadn't authorized the use of his name and likeness in commercial merchandise. But on Thursday, a Georgia federal judge said that the information about his wrestling exploits was protected by the First Amendment. The court compared his situation to a baseball player whose playing statistics are given, ruling that the WWE's use of "Pretty Boy" was "historical and fact based" and that the WWE's website listing his achievements falls within the newsworthiness exception to his causes of action. Here's the full ruling.