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The legal battle between the association of foreign journalists behind the Golden Globes and its longtime show producer will continue, with a trial now scheduled for September.
A federal judge on Monday denied a motion by Dick Clark Prods. and its owner Red Zone Capital Partners to dismiss asuit filed late last year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.
However, the judge did agree on another motion saying Dick Clark did not breach its fiduciary duty, which is important because that could have carried punitive damages if proven. There are other issues still in the suit which could also carry punitive damages.
A fiduciary duty is an obligation to act in the best interests of the other party.
The HFPA took the ruling as a victory.
“We are delighted that the judge agreed with us and refused to accept the argument by Dick Clark Prods. and Red Zone that they have any clear claim to control the broadcast rights to any future Golden Globe Awards show,” said the HFPA in a statement issued late Monday. “Now that their attempt to evade responsibility for their bad-faith conduct has been rejected, we look forward to presenting our evidence at trial – and to establishing once and for all that no sale of any rights connected to the Globes is possible without the HFPA’s participation and consent.” “We are thrilled that the federal judge ruled in our favor that our lawsuit, claiming that dcp has no right to the Golden Globe Awards beyond 2011, has merit,” said HFPA president Philip Berk in a statement. “We will continue the fight to reclaim all of our rights.”
In its suit the HFPA had charged that Dick Clark breached its contract by secretly signing a deal to renew the awards show with NBC, keeping sponsorship money that should have been shared, and having a secret plan to take over the Globes, as well as other allegations. The HFPA is seeking an injunction to stop Dick Clark from using the Globe trademarks for anything beyond the scope of the last contract, which ended with the show this past January.
The court specifically ruled that it would not dismiss the HFPA claims for trademark infringement, false association, part of a claim for breach of contract and unfair competition.
On the claim on which it agreed with Dick Clark Prods., which is a division of a private equity firm headed by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, the judge left open the possibility that the HFPA can in the future present evidence that might change the ruling in their favor.
“The court has taken the matter under submission and has not issued its final ruling,” DCP said. “We will await that before offering any comment.”
The case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in downtown Los Angeles before Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank. A trial date has been set for September. If that in fact takes place, there would likely be time after the ruling to determine the fate of the next Golden Globes show in January 2012.
If Dick Clark wins that trial, which would be over how to interpret the contract and who has what rights, then a deal they have made with NBC to carry the show from 2012 until 2018 for an estimated $15 million a year would be intact.
If the HFPA prevails, they would be free to find a new producer and put the show’s broadcast rights out for bids to other networks. CBS, among others, has expressed an interest in being a bidder. The HFPA has said there will be a show one way or another.
If the HFPA wins, NBC may turn around and sue Dick Clark because they feel they have a deal made in good faith in their belief DCP had the right to negotiate as they have done for the past two decades on behalf of the HFPA.
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