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Lawsuit over Oscar copyright infringement settled by Academy

February 22, 2013|By Daniel Miller
  • Oscar statuettes on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Oscar statuettes on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. (Tim Boyle / Getty Images )

Unlike last year, people hoping to jazz up their Academy Awards viewing parties this weekend with an oversized statuette resembling Oscar are now out of luck.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has settled a lawsuit it brought against an Edwardsville, Ill.-based events rental company for copyright infringement stemming from the alleged renting and selling of eight-foot statues that looked like the Oscar statuettes.

The case against TheEventLine.com and its president, Robert Hollingsworth, was settled late last year and dismissed Nov. 19. In a lawsuit filed March 9 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the Academy had alleged that Hollingsworth continued to market, sell and rent the eight-foot statues after he'd been notified of the alleged infringement in a letter sent in March 2011.

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This week David Quinto, a partner at law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, which represented the Academy in the matter, said in an interview that TheEventLine.com agreed to stop selling and renting the statue, “not repeat its transgression” and pay his client’s attorneys fees.

The Academy is known for vociferously defending its copyrights and trademarks, including those for the iconic statuette. In its complaint, the organization said that it "does not permit or license any manufacture, reproduction, distribution, sale, rental, or use of such marks by manufacturers, distributors, retailers, or businesses such as [TheEventLine.com]."

Quinto said that the case should make it clear that “the Academy’s marks are not part of the national patrimony.

“It dispels the notion that the term Oscar or the Oscar statuette are somehow in the public domain or free for anyone to use,” he said. “They are not.”

The Academy alleged in its lawsuit that around March 2011 it became aware of TheEventLine.com marketing an unauthorized "Giant 8-ft OSCAR" statue. The Academy said that "alterations to their bootleg statues do not change the fact that defendants continue to market statues" that resembled the gold Oscar statuette, which depicts a knight holding a sword.

In a counterclaim filed June 12, TheEventLine.com and Hollingsworth argued that the company did not market statuettes that were "strikingly, substantially, or confusingly similar to the Academy’s ‘Oscar’ statuettes" and denied receiving letters from the Academy in 2011 that said the product violated the organization's copyright. 

TheEventLine.com was still marketing a product in early 2012 called the Telly Award, which resembled the Oscar statuette but featured a more muscular figure than the Academy's Art Deco knight. As part of the settlement, the Telly Award is no longer for rent or sale by TheEventLine.com.

Hollingsworth did not return a phone call seeking comment. Glenn Lyon of law firm MacGregor Lyon LLC, which represented TheEventLine.com and Hollingsworth, could not be reached for comment.

The Academy is involved in a lawsuit with Internet domain registrar GoDaddy that also centers on trademarks. In 2010, the organization accused GoDaddy of facilitating cyber squatters' trademark infringement by allowing customers to buy domains like academyawardz.com and collect a portion of revenue from GoDaddy advertising partners that placed ads on such websites. 

The Academy did not respond to requests for comment.

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daniel.miller@latimes.com 

@danielnmiller

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