Lionsgate Sued for Snarling at "Nobody Puts Your Old 401(K) in the Corner" Advertisement

Lionsgate allegedly demanded a seven-figure license from TD Ameritrade for infringing a line from "Dirty Dancing."
Vestron Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Lionsgate and TD Ameritrade are about to have the time of their lives in a courtroom over a famous line from the film Dirty Dancing.

Up until April, the brokerage giant was running an advertisement 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."

This apparently triggered a stern warning from Lionsgate that the line infringed or diluted its trademark rights to "Nobody puts Baby in a corner," referring to one of the final scenes from Dirty Dancing when Patrick Swayze's character approaches Jennifer Grey's for a knock-out dance.

A letter sent by Lionsgate on April 2 is said to have demanded that TD Ameritrade cease the advertisement and pay Lionsgate a seven figure amount to settle its claim. (Besides trademark, the film studio is said to have "alluded" to copyright as well.)

In an action filed on Friday in New York federal court seeking declaratory relief, TD Ameritrade and its marketing agency Havas Worldwide say they wish "to put to rest the baseless, overreaching claims asserted by Lionsgate."

The plaintiffs say there's no evidence that anyone was confused while the advertisement ran for a seven-month period. They add they have no plans to use the ad in the future.

Nevertheless, if Lionsgate wants more than a million dollars for a license — a spokesperson for the studio declined comment — it will be fought over in court.

According to the complaint authored by Andrew Baum at Foley & Lardner, Lionsgate filed applications for "Nobody puts baby in a corner" on September 6, 2014 (about a month before TD Ameritrade's ads started running). The applications for an intent to use the mark for such goods as books, paper-based items, clothing and household items remain pending.

As a judge gets set to weigh in on trademark rights associated with famous movie lines, here's a look at TD Ameritrade's advertisement (which is still up on its website) as well as the famous scene from Dirty Dancing. The lawsuit adds that social media versions of this ad also used the line “Take that baby and roll it over to an IRA.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported the plaintiff as TD America instead of the proper TD Ameritrade.

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