La-la-lawsuits: A Look at March’s Finest Litigious Moments

March 31st, 2012

Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination lawsuit against ABC ended in a mistrial.  The Desperate Housewives actress won’t be getting the $5.7 million back pay she sought.  The mistrial was primarily due to lack of witness credibility, although 8 out of the 12 jurors seemed to side with Sheridan.  The case centered on whether ABC decided to fire Sheridan as an act of retaliation in response to her allegations of being hit by the series’ executive producer Marc Cherry.  Both parties have indicated a desire to continue the fight, rather than settle at this point, so a retrial should be scheduled in coming months.

Lindsay Lohan is suing hip-hop artist Pitbill for an alleged violation of her publicity rights due to his inclusion of her name in his song “Give Me Everything.”  The lyric that targets the actress: “So, I’m toptoein’, to keep flowin’, I got it locked up, like Lindsay Lohan.” Pitbull has now responded by asking the New York judge to dismiss the lawsuit based on his First Amendment rights and citing other popular songs that use celebrity names in lyrics (including an Eminem song referring to Lohan as well).  Additional arguments include that the use is de minimis, that it is not for advertising or trade purposes, and that rights of publicity don’t apply to “newsworthy” events.

Warner Bros. has responded to the trademark infringement lawsuit brought by Louis Vuitton (which I discussed in the December post of La-la-lawsuits) for use of the fashion company’s trademark in the film The Hangover II.  The film company is defending its use of the trademark, arguing that movies have a First Amendment right to feature trademarks as part of their creative expression without requiring the consent of rights owners.

The Beatles won a trademark dispute against a Dutch company’s attempt to make “Beatle” wheelchairs. “Even after 50 years of existence, [The Beatles' Image is] still synonymous with youth and a certain counter-culture of the 1960s, an image which is still positive and which could specifically benefit the goods covered by the mark applied for.”

Entertainment companies Valcrom and Microhits have brought the first lawsuits against Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom since he was indicted for mass copyright infringements in January. The companies are bringing mostly the same claims that were brought up in the indictment.  They are seeking statutory damages between $30,000 to $150,000 per infringement. The specific number of infringements is not released, but Microhits catalog apparently exceeds 25,000 musical works and sound recordings and Valcom says its library contains in excess of 6,000 works.