Lionsgate Defeats '50/50' Trademark Lawsuit

A music label says it had "50/50" first. A judge watches the movie and says it doesn't matter.
Summit Entertainment

Lionsgate, its Summit Entertainment division and Mandate Pictures have prevailed against a music label that alleged the film 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, infringed a trademark.

In a federal suit filed last year in Illinois, Eastland Music Group said it had been using the 50/50 mark since 2000 in connection with entertainment services and products. Lionsgate's plans to release the film on DVD were claimed to be threatening its own products by confusing consumers, harming recognition and damaging goodwill. The music label wanted an injunction to stop the film's release.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge George Lindberg accepted defendants' motion to dismiss the trademark claims.

The judge applied the legal test outlined in the preeminent case on the supposed misleadings of movie titles, Rogers v. Grimaldi, which says that a title must be explicitly misleading and devoid of any artistic relevance to the work.

Judge Lindberg watched the critically-acclaimed work and finds there's "no question" how the film meets this test. He writes:

"Within the first 12 minutes of the movie, the co-star Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, states that he has a 50/50 chance of survival after being diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. The remainder of the movie revolves around whether Adam will survive his 50/50 diagnosis. The movie and packaging make clear that 50/50 refers to the survival odds related to the character Adams’ cancer diagnosis, and Eastland has not plausibly pled any possibility of confusion between the movie and Eastland’s muscial (sic) group, or Eastland’s music related business use of the mark 'PHIFTY-50.'"

Given that determination, there was a 100 percent chance that Eastland would not survive the judge's prognosis, and so they didn't.

The defendants were represented by Pryor Cashman partner Tom Ferber, who was also the attorney who prevailed in the Rogers v. Grimaldi case.

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