Hollywood Docket: Jury Sides With Grumpy Cat in Coffee Dispute

A roundup of entertainment legal news.
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Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat has a reason to smile, after a California jury awarded her $710,000 in a contract dispute with a beverage company over a line of coffee bearing the meme-maker's mug. 

The owners of the famous feline, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, sued on her behalf in December 2015. Grumpy Cat Limited claimed Grenade Beverage overstepped its bounds in a licensing deal by putting the cat's face on a line of ground coffee and registering the domain www.grumpycat.com. Meanwhile, Grenade claimed it was the cat's company that violated their deal. 

Prior to the trial, U.S. District Court judge David Carter granted partial summary judgment in favor of Grumpy Cat. He denied the motion with regard to the breach of contract claim, finding there was a dispute of material fact over whether ground coffee was included in a pre-approved "line of coffee products" under the license agreement. However, he found that if the agreement didn't grant pre-approval for ground coffee, then Grumpy Cat had the right to reject the proposal for the product.

The jury on Monday sided with Grumpy Cat, finding the beverage company and one of its principals liable for copyright and trademark infringement and awarding $710,000 in damages. The jury also found the beverage company breached its contract and awarded $1 in damages on that claim. (See the verdict form here.)

The cat fight isn't over yet, though. Carter must still decide Grumpy Cat's claims related to cybersquatting and accounting and defendants' counterclaims seeking declaratory relief for ownership of trademark, copyright and domain name and for non-infringement of trademark and copyright.

In other entertainment legal news:

— A second man has joined a lawsuit against comedian Iliza Shlesinger over her Nov. 13 girls-only show at Largo at The Coronet. George St. George sued in December, claiming he and a friend were turned away from "Girls Night in With Iliza — No Boys Allowed" for being men. On Jan. 18. St. George's attorney Alfred Rava amended the complaint to add Lawrence Pollister as a plaintiff. Pollister says he went to the same show with a female friend and she was allowed to enter while he wasn't. Reps for Shlesinger responded to the original complaint with a statement saying she couldn't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but the evening was a singular event that "encouraged women to get together, talk and laugh about the things we go through" and it is "unfortunate that this has now become an issue."

— Mattel is being sued by a production company that says the toymaker breached an implied contract for an unscripted competition show called Playmakers in which inventors pitched toys to kid judges for a chance to have their product put into production and distributed. Herrick Productions claims it had a series of 2014 meetings with Mattel to discuss the series, but the toymaker passed, citing financial concerns. Mattel and ABC later partnered on a similar show called The Toy Box, which prompted Herrick to file this suit for breach of implied contract, breach of confidence and fraudulent inducement. (Read the complaint here.)

— Glenn Frey's widow is suing Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for wrongful death and is alleging her husband's doctor was negligent. The Eagles co-founder died Jan. 18, 2016, due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. Cindy Frey claims the hospital and its gastroenterologist failed to promptly and properly treat her husband and is seeking unspecified damages. (Read the complaint here.) 

— The model-making company that created Star Wars icon R2-D2 and three of its former employees have quietly settled a trade secret dispute. McCune Masterworks in June 2016 sued Monty Shook, Jack Edjourian and John Ferrari after they left to launch a competing company. The three men then filed a cross-complaint for fraud and unfair business practices. The case was dismissed with prejudice in April after the parties reached an undisclosed settlement agreement. 

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