Hollywood Docket: NBCU Makes $3.5 Million Lawsuit Over Fonts Disappear

A roundup of entertainment law news including the resolution of lawsuits involving fonts, "The Biggest Loser," a famous director and the price of movie theater concessions.
Courtesy of NBCUniversal

Another lawsuit over an entertainment company allegedly stealing a typeface font has been settled.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in New York dismissed a $3.5 million lawsuit brought by Brand Design Co. against NBCUniversal at the behest of the parties.

The plaintiff sued over the alleged appearance of the Chalet typeface font on NBC's websites. The lawsuit alleged that NBCU subsidiary Oxygen Media purchased a license to use the typeface font but that the agreement did not permit the use of copyrighted font software on other NBCU's websites.

The resolution of this case follows other lawsuits and subsequent settlements -- all filed by the same New York attorney -- over fonts used by CNBC, Universal Studios and TNT.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but both parties are bearing their own legal costs. NBC declined comment.

In other entertainment law news:

  • NBCU has scored a victory at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. On Wednesday, the appellate court affirmed dismissal of a lawsuit that contended that the reality TV series, The Biggest Loser, was stolen from a woman named Sonya Latimore who had authored an original written treatment for a weight loss reality television show titled Phat Farm. Latimore had tried to introduce new evidence after a federal judge declared a loser in the case, but the appeals court says it couldn't possibly alter the outcome. The alleged evidence went to producer's access to her idea, but had "no bearing on substantial similarity," the 2nd Circuit ruled. Here's the summary order.
  • Paramount Pictures has been pretty active in recent weeks putting various lawsuits to bed. We've already reported that the studio recently settled a dispute with the estate of Mario Puzo over rights to The Godfather. There have been other lawsuits to quietly go. One dispute resolved in late December was a lawsuit brought by William Friedkin over his 1977 thriller Sorcerer. The Oscar-winning director sued Paramount and Universal Studios last year and contended that both companies had disclaimed rights to the film, leaving him unable to screen the movie. Friedkin dropped the lawsuit on his own accord. Another dispute resolved before the New Year was a $10 million lawsuit brought by Swedish gaming company ProCloud that alleged that Paramount had shut down its digital entertainment division and walked away from a deal to co-develop video and social web games based on several motion pictures. Terms of the settlement have not been revealed in court. Paramount says in a statement, "We are pleased the matter has been amicably resolved.”
  • George Clinton, the litigious pioneer of funk and copyright, might be losing royalties to four of his songs -- Groove, Hardcore Jollies, The Electric Spanking of War Babies and Uncle Jam Wants You -- to pay legal bills. Hendricks & Lewis, the firm that has brought litigation on his behalf, has been after him for some time over about $1.7 million. Clinton has attempted revenge by accusing the firm of legal malpractice, but a federal judge has reportedly ordered the songs turned over to pay what is due. Clinton is appealing.
  • Last March, a Michigan resident named Joshua Thompson made national news by filing a class action lawsuit that objected to the high cost of movie theater concessions. With movie theaters reportedly making $3000 on a bag of popcorn costing them $300, Thompson sued his local AMC theater for denying him the ability to bring his own soda and candy into the theater. His claims were based on the Michigan's Consumer Protection Act. However, the lawsuit didn't survive very long. In September, a judge ruled that the claims weren't valid and the dismissal of the case was recently confirmed. The judge never issued a written ruling, but we caught up with Thompson's attorney Kerry Morgan to find out what happened. The lesson appears to be that if there's price gouging in violation of the state law, it's the government's responsibility to do something. Morgan explains:

"At the hearing the Court determined that Michigan's Consumer Protection Law does not allow a challenge to pricing where the business is otherwise regulated by a state agency.  The Court determined that the sale of food/concessions was regulated by the Michigan Dept of Agriculture/Health department and thus exempt.  Thompson argued that the scope of state regulations related to the safety of the food itself and had nothing to do with the fact that the movie concessions were sold at a price grossly disproportionate to that price which the same items were sold locally.  The law prohibited grossly disproportionate pricing/price gouging.  The Court would have none of it.  Michigan courts continue to narrow the Consumer protection Law into irrelevance."

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner