The lawsuit filed by the filmmaker Don Murphy against the author’s estate (aka Dille Family Trust) has been moved from its original venue, Los Angeles, to what I assume is the estate’s home venue, Pittsburgh:
A copyright fight between a Hollywood producer and a trust represented by a New Castle lawyer over the Buck Rogers name will be heard in Pittsburgh after the case was transferred here from California.
Producer Team Angry Filmworks, run by Don Murphy, … said in a federal suit filed this summer in Los Angeles that the Buck Rogers name is in the public domain, so he can use it.
The case was transferred from Los Angeles federal court to Pittsburgh on Monday after a judge in California said it belongs in Western Pennsylvania because Ms. Geer, who is also the defendant, lives here.
I’ve been following this case for much the same reason that I followed Leslie Klinger’s lawsuit over Sherlock Holmes. That earlier case set precedent for copyright law, and I’m expecting to see this case have a similar impact on the intersection of trademark and copyright law.
To recap, this lawsuit was filed over Armagedden 2419 AD, the original Buck Rogers story. The filmmaker wants to use it as the basis for a movie but can’t because the estate (Dille Family Trust) doesn’t want to grant a license.
According to the estate’s lawyer, Dan Herman, the film maker had twice approached the Dille Family Trust’s licensing agent in the last year to try to get a deal for his movie, but was rejected because the trust has another project in mind. “The trust got a better deal,” Herman said. “I can’t say what it is, but it’’s not a theatrical film.”
And so Don Murphy is suing.
The fun part about this case is that while the original Buck Rogers story is out of copyright, the estate may still hold valid trademarks over elements from the stories. And while the Dastar decision says that you can’t use a trademark as an ersatz copyright, it isn’t clear whether that decision is applicable.