Summit in rights battle over 'Letters to Juliet'

Calderon.Juliet What would the Bard say about this lawsuit?

Summit Entertainment is tussling over rights to a movie that might best be described as "Julie & Julia" meets William Shakespeare.

The forthcoming film, "Letters to Juliet," focuses on a young American woman played by Amanda Seyfried who travels to Verona, Italy, to visit the real-life tombstone of Juliet Capulet, of "Romeo & Juliet" fame. In the city, Seyfried happens upon an old letter to Juliet dated 1951, tucked away in a forgotten corner near Juliet's gravestone. Seyfried's character is inspired to reply to the letterwriter on behalf of Juliet.

The film, which has already been shot by director Gary Winick ("Bride Wars") and is scheduled for a May release, is inspired by a non-fiction book of the same name, published in 2006 and optioned to Summit. The story shows how for the past 100 years, visitors to a Franciscan monastery in Verona have left letters to Juliet seeking love advice, and how a local group in Verona called the "Club di Giulietta" has taken it upon itself to answer these letters.

Sounds like an interesting premise for a film. But there's one problem.

Ergoarts, Inc., which produced Sundance special jury prize winner "Songcatcher," claims it has rights to the story after making a licensing agreement with the Club di Giulietta and its leader. Since 2006, Ergoarts has pursued first the book authors, and then Summit, demanding that "Letters to Juliet" be stopped.

Now Summit is asking a New York district court to declare that "Letters to Juliet" is legit, that it doesn't violate copyright, privacy rights, publicity rights, trademark, contract, nor does it tortiously interfere with any contractual relationship between ErgoArts and the Club di Giulietta.

Here's a copy of the best Victorian-themed intellectual property complaint since the missing Christopher Marlowe v. William Shakespeare.

UPDATE: Summit gave us this statement on the suit: "Summit Entertainment has taken proactive steps to protect its rights in regards to its upcoming feature film LETTERS TO JULIET. The information provided in the filing accurately represents our position."