Lionsgate Busts a Move in 'Dirty Dancing' Lawsuit Against Bank

A judge rules that TD Ameritrade's "early arrival at the courthouse steps will not be rewarded."
Vestron Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Nobody puts Lionsgate in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. On Tuesday, a federal judge agreed with the studio that TD Ameritrade had jumped the gun by filing a lawsuit over a famous quote from the film Dirty Dancing.

At issue is the brokerage giant's ad campaign (see below) featuring a cartoon image of a man holding a piggy bank above his head reminiscent of an iconic dance move from Dirty Dancing. The tagline: "Nobody puts your old 401(k) in the corner."

In late June, TD Ameritrade filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory relief that this didn't infringe Lionsgate's trademark rights. The complaint was filed in New York after months of back-and-forth letters between the parties. Lionsgate wanted $1 million to settle a potential lawsuit. Instead, TD Ameritrade rushed to a courthouse.

So Lionsgate filed its own lawsuit in California and told judges on both coasts that the parties had agreed they'd be contacting each other before suing. The studio has won the first round and will get the dispute adjudicated on the dance floor of its choice.

"There is no question that plaintiffs filed this action in anticipation of Lionsgate filing a suit against them," writes U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest. "Here, Lionsgate communicated its intention to file suit and the forum in which it would do so. Lionsgate informed plaintiffs on June 3, 2015, that it would file suit in 'the Central District of California' should settlement discussions proved unfruitful."

As such, Judge Forrest decides TD Ameritrade's gamesmanship meets the standards for an exception to the first-to-file rule. "Plaintiffs’ early arrival at the courthouse steps will not be rewarded with procedural advantage and frustration of defendant’s pursuit of the claims in California," she says.

The lawsuit now continues in the Golden State, where Lionsgate is asserting common law trademark rights and a pending federal registration application on the movie line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Lionsgate says it earns merchandise revenue from this famous line and says it has "future plans for additional exploitation of this valuable property." The studio alleges that TD Ameritrade has attempted to "deceive customers into believing that the Advertising Campaign was a Lionsgate-licensed, authorized or sponsored work, when, in fact, it was not."

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