Intellectual Property

Fox Lawyers Tell Movie Studio to Stop Making Knockoffs

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The studio 20th Century Fox has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a low-budget competitor that is releasing a movie with a similar name and release date to Fox’s own remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Fox is releasing the movie starring Keanu Reaves and Jennifer Connelly in December, the same month the Asylum plans to release The Day the Earth Stopped, Reuters reports. Fox has hired lawyers to pursue the Asylum and appears ready to test whether the knockoff filmmaker is violating trademark or copyright law, the story says.

Asylum is known for its well-timed films with derivative names. Its movies include Snakes on a Train, Street Racer and Transmorphers.

Film titles don’t receive trademark protection unless they achieve a secondary meaning in the market, the story says. That could be difficult to prove, except for classic films such as Gone with the Wind.

The story quotes Loyola law professor Jay Dougherty, who suggests that The Day the Earth Stood Still may have acquired the needed secondary meaning since it is a remake of a well-known film. Marketing materials that mimic those of another studio could also raise copyright and trademark concerns.

Asylum marketers “purposely try to copy the look and feel of the marketing,” Dougherty told the wire service. “They might be sitting ducks.”

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