Feds Charge Artist With Fraudulent Attempt to Take Credit for 'Kung Fu Panda'

"Kung Fu Panda"
DreamWorks Paramount/Everett Collection

DISPUTE: The Jack Black-voiced fighting panda movies from DreamWorks Animation are the subject of two lawsuits from writers claiming they first came up with the idea.

STATUS: Both cases are still in the preliminary stage. Terence Dunn filed first and claims he had phone conversations with DWA executives before they made the film. DWA recently filed a motion to dismiss the suit, claiming the movie was under way for a year when it had discussions with Dunn. Meanwhile, artist Jayme Gordon has pressed his own case, even including detailed character drawings.

UPDATE: Jury sides with DreamWorks in Dunn case

It turns out there's a fate far worse than paying a studio's legal bill upon the failure of a copyright lawsuit. How about a possible 25-year prison sentence? Witness the fate of Jayme Gordon, who in 2013 was on the precipice of a major trial against DreamWorks Animation over the blockbuster film Kung Fu Panda

Gordon sued DWA with word that the studio had lifted work he created in the 1990s, including "a Kung Fu fighting giant panda who likes to eat."

He beat a summary judgment motion made by DWA and was able to depose Jeffrey Katzenberg about “Panda Power” materials allegedly sent in 1999. At the time, the judge noted, "Gordon’s 2000 and 2011 copyright registrations provide evidence of similarities between the overall works and the two main panda characters," and further, "Katzenberg appears to have provided conflicting testimony regarding his procedures for handling unsolicited submissions."

A few months before the trial, Gordon agreed to dismiss the case over a film that grossed $630 million worldwide at the box office in 2008.

That happened in July 2013. The development came after DWA's lawyers uncovered evidence of a 1996 Disney coloring book traced by Gordon.

Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 5.11.43 PM

More than two years after DWA spent $3 million in legal costs successfully beating Gordon's lawsuit, the FBI has announced that Gordon has been indicted on wire fraud and perjury charges,

“Our intellectual property laws are designed to protect creative artists, not defraud them,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz in a statement. “The misuse of civil litigation as part of a fraud scheme, and lying under oath, as alleged in this case, warp our federal judicial system and must be addressed with appropriate criminal sanctions.”

The indictment alleges that after seeing a trailer for Kung Fu Panda, Gordon revised his "Panda Power" drawing, renaming it "Kung Fu Panda Power," and also fabricated and backdated sketches, all part of an alleged scheme to push DWA into a settlement.