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Academy threatens suit against OscarWatch.com

February 06, 2007|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Oscar the statue, meet Oscar the Grouch.

Lawyers for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last week ordered the editor of the 7-year-old OscarWatch.com website to give up the name or face a lawsuit.

At issue: The academy owns the "Oscar" trademark and warned founding editor Sasha Stone that she has no legal right to the name and that her website "is likely to confuse visitors searching the academy's site."

Stone, who has run OscarWatch.com from her Los Angeles home since just after her daughter's 1999 birth, said she can't afford a lawyer and is uncertain what her next step will be.

A message seeking comment from the academy was not returned.

The academy has taken similar measures dating back a decade, including moving in 2000 against some 50 websites that incorporated "Oscar" or "Academy" in their site names.

But this is the first time the academy has gone after Stone's site, she said.

Stone speculated she was targeted to preclude other potential users of "Oscar" from citing her as an example in challenging the academy's trademark.

Yet the name is already part of the common language, she said.

"I really do think I can argue this thing -- people do use the name all the time.... Oscar-watching is its own word, really," she said.

"But I probably just can't afford it. I think I'll just have to comply," she added.

Stone said she makes about $20,000 a year from her site, which was one of the first to focus almost exclusively on the Oscars and offers a movie junkie's take on the annual jockeying for filmdom's top honor.

The Oscars will be handed out this year on Feb. 25.

Stone fears that changing the name of the site will put in jeopardy the Web traffic and readership she has spent years building.

She said she was surprised to get the demand after years of running the site -- and in a media world in which Oscar has become an accepted shorthand for the annual awards in book titles, journalism and other outlets.

"They have left me alone for years," Stone said. "I don't know what the deal is with them."

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scott.martelle@latimes.com

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