Hollywood Docket: Chris Farley 'Fat Bike' Fight; 'Creed' Suit Dismissal; 'Kickboxer' Settlement

A roundup of entertainment law news.
Screengrab
Chris Farley in 'Tommy Boy' (1995)

Chris Farley's "fat guy in a little coat" dance from 1995's Tommy Boy is a fond memory for many fans of the late comedian — but that doesn't mean the company that now controls the actor's intellectual property will let just anyone take advantage of his larger-than-life brand.

Make Him Smile Inc. is suing Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corporation for false endorsement and unfair business practices, among other claims, over its "Fat Bikes" named "Farley."

"Defendant Trek's Fat Bikes have a wider than average chassis and extraordinarily 'fat' tires, giving them a unique, eye-catching and, relative to most multi-terrain mountain bikes, 'fat' appearance," writes attorney Kirk Schenck. "[T]hey chose the brand name 'Farley' to welcome and encourage potential customers and the bike industry generally to immediately associate Defendant Trek's Fat Bikes with one of their favorite 'fat' and 'loud' comedians."

The Madison-born actor was known for "fat guy" humor, according to the suit, and MHS claims the bike company is not only unfairly capitalizing on Farley's image but is doing so in his home state. Trek's CEO John Burke lives in the Village of Maple Bluff, where Farley was born and raised.

"[T]he Farley family and the Burke family have known, and socialized, with one another over many decades, and both families simultaneously belonged to the same Maple Bluff Country Club," writes Schenck.

Make Him Smile also argues that a 2013 recall of 2,600 Farley fat bikes that posed a fall hazard to riders further damaged, devalued and tarnished the late comedian's intellectual property.

The suit seeks $10 million in damages. (Read the full complaint here.)

In other entertainment legal news:

— Can a movie be pitched in 140 characters? Maybe. But any aspiring screenwriter who attempts to do so on Twitter should be warned that suing for idea theft and breach of implied contract won't have a happy ending. Jarrett Alexander in 2016 sued MGM, Warner Bros. and New Line — along with Sylvester Stallone and director Ryan Coogler — for allegedly stealing his idea for a Rocky spinoff about the fighting career of Apollo Creed's son after he tweeted it to several folks in Hollywood. Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew last month dismissed the suit. "While requiring an in-person meeting for a misappropriation of idea claim in the world of movie and television pitching may be unrealistic in light of communication and social media advancements, Plaintiff’s theory of implied contract by tweet and by mass-mailing of his Screenplay might turn mere idea submission into a free-for-all," writes Lew. "It strains reason that Defendants 'accepted' Plaintiff’s offer to enter a contract or understood the conditions under which he tendered the Creed Idea from a unilateral tweet and from Plaintiff disseminating his Creed Idea on the internet."

— Ted Field and his Radar Pictures averted a fraud trial over a bridge loan for the Kickboxer remake just minutes before opening arguments were set to begin Sept. 11. Field was sued in 2015 by Central Films Media and its principal Fernando Sulichin. Their attorneys spent the morning in settlement discussions while waiting for judge Gerald Rosenberg to clear other matters from his calendar. They decided to take a recess just minutes into proceedings and shortly thereafter returned to court having struck a deal. No terms were made public. All attorneys Mathew Rosengart and Jonathan Freund would say is their clients resolved the matter amicably.

—  Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and the estates of Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Arthur C. Clarke prevailed on a motion for summary judgment last month in a copyright lawsuit over unauthorized children's versions of classic novels, and on Monday the remaining issues were dismissed with prejudice. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff on Sept. 8 issued a detailed ruling on fair use, "stock characters" and derivative works, but left for a jury the issue of whether infringement was willful. However, in an effort to avoid the "time and expense" of a damages trial, the plaintiffs withdrew the remaining claims. The publishers called Rakoff's order a "clear and definitive victory" in a statement on Penguin's website. "On the key issues issues of copying, infringement and fair use, this opinion unambiguously supports the plaintiff’s claim that the KinderGuides were clearly derivative and plainly infringing," reads the statement. "We are delighted with this result, which sets a standard for strong copyright protection for years to come.”

— An exploitation lawsuit filed by Sudanese refugees over Ron Howard's The Good Lie has settled. In 2015, 54 refugees sued producers of the film including Imagine Entertainment, Alcon Entertainment, Black Label Media and Reliance Big Entertainment, claiming they helped create the film and were promised compensation but never were paid. The parties on Monday filed a joint stupulation of dismissal with prejudice after having notified the court of a settlement earlier this summer.

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