April 26, 2004
In this newsletter:
THE COURT DISMISSES "RUGRATS" INFRINGEMENT CLAIM AND REPRIMANDS PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER FOR FAILING TO WITHDRAW
Philip Cargile sued Viacom for basing the characters from the Nickelodeon series, the "Rugrats," on his cartoon characters, the "Go-Burns." Cargile claimed that in 1991 and in 1992, he gave copies of his cartoon characters to a member of the Florida Film Commission who was supposed to meet with Nickelodeon.
Viacom denied Cargile's allegations and filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case. Viacom provided evidence that the Rugrats were created by an independent production company in 1989, and a pilot for the series aired in 1990, before Cargile allegedly submitted copies of his cartoons. Viacom also argued that Cargile failed to file his lawsuit within the statute of limitations of four years for contracts, and of three years for trade secret claims. Cargile filed his lawsuit in 2000, more than nine years after Rugrats first aired.
District Judge Stephan Mickle granted Viacom's summary judgment motion. The Judge stated that the case could be dismissed based on the statute of limitations argument alone. The Judge also found that the similarity between the Go-Burns and the Rugrats was so "slight" that it could not support Cargile's allegation that Viacom used his cartoon characters. In addition, Cargile did not provide any evidence of an implied agreement with Viacom to maintain the secrecy of his characters or to pay for their use. Furthermore, the member of the Commission who allegedly had a meeting with Nickelodeon died, and therefore, Cargile's claim that the meeting actually took place could not be corroborated.
Viacom also sought monetary sanctions against Cargile's attorney under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failing to withdraw from the case after Cargile refused to dismiss the case voluntarily. The Judge did not grant Viacom's request for monetary sanctions but he reprimanded Cargile's attorney for not withdrawing from the case, and thus failing to act in accordance with his duties under Rule 11 and the rules of professional conduct. Cargile v. Viacom International, Inc., 282 F.Supp.2d 1316, 2003 U.S. Dist.LEXIS 21097 (N.D.Fla. 2003)
MARK TO TEACH AT NEW YORK VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS
On Nov. 6, Mark will conduct a "Self-defense for Writers and Directors" seminar for New York Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. He will explain how writers and directors can prevent problems from arising by properly securing underlying rights and by encouraging the other party to live up to agreements by adding performance milestones, default penalties and arbitration clauses. Participants will also learn what remedies are available to enforce their rights in the event of a dispute. For more information or to register, please call Alexei Auld at 212-319-ARTS (2787) ext. 12.
RISKY BUSINESS IS NOW AVAILABLE
Mark's latest book "Risky Business" is now available for purchase and delivery via UPS through his website at www.marklitwak.com/store. "Risky Business" is the comprehensive nuts-and-bolts guide to setting up an independent production project. Starting with the basic organization of the company and the preparation of production, collaboration, and screenplay agreements, it covers in detail everything from raising money via loans, presales, and investors through finding, contracting with, and policing the finished project's distributors.