9TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS MOVIE STUDIO’S COPYRIGHT
LOS ANGELES – LAWFUEL – June 20, 2008 – In a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Loeb & Loeb attorneys were victorious in protecting the rights to The Pink Panther movies on behalf of their client MGM.
In Richlin v. MGM, the heirs of Maurice Richlin, the co-author, with Blake Edwards, of the 14-page treatment that served as the basis for the screenplay for the first Pink Panther motion picture, sued MGM for a declaration (and accounting) that they owned an interest in the renewal term copyrights in the Pink Panther and nine sequels that followed it because the copyright in the treatment had reverted to them under the principles set forth in the Supreme Court’s case in Stewart v. Abend (the Rear Window case). The Ninth Circuit, in a published opinion, affirmed the decision in the court below that the Richlin heirs did not own any cognizable interest in any of the Pink Panther copyrights.
As seen from this quote from the introduction to the Opinion, the 9th Circuit had some fun with this difficult, but interesting case:
“Inspector Jacques Clouseau, famously unable to crack the simplest of murder cases, would most certainly be confounded by the case we face. While Inspector Clouseau searched for the answer to the question, “Who did it?”, we must search for the answer to the question, “Who owns it?”. In 1962, Maurice Richlin coauthored a story treatment (the “Treatment”) involving the bumbling inspector. . . .
Although the Richlin heirs have developed several theories that could supply the answer to the question, “Who owns it?”, unlike Inspector Clouseau, they have not quite stumbled upon a theory that favors them. We therefore affirm the district court’s conclusion that the Richlin heirs have no interest in the copyright to the Motion Picture.”
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