A U.S. District Court judge has granted summary judgment to Fox, WME, Peter Chernin, Liz Meriwether and others in a copyright lawsuit filed by a pair of writers who claim Fox’s sitcom New Girl was based on their idea. It’s the latest and seemingly final move in Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold’s attempt to show that New Girl was based on their 2006 pilot Square One.
“Plaintiffs have not introduced evidence demonstrating a triable issue of fact regarding Defendants’ access to Square One,” Judge Stephen V. Wilson wrote in a ruling (read it here) dated December 30. “Moreover, even assuming arguendo that a triable issue of access exists, no reasonable jury could conclude that there are substantial similarities in the plot, sequence of events, characters, mood, pace, setting, theme or dialogue between Square One and New Girl. For these reasons, the Court grants Defendants’ motion for summary judgment.”
Counts and Gold alleged a chain of events saw their Square One script ending up in the hands of pre-WME-merger Endeavor agents who “widely circulated” it and, through a convoluted process, got it to Chernin and credited creator Meriwether. Their multiple-claim complaint — originally filed in January 2014, dismissed in October 2014 and refiled last year — also says that Square One, which features a woman moving in as the roommate to three men, has so many similarities with New Girl “that independent creation was obviously impossible.”
In an amended complaint, Counts and Gold said the first two versions of their script were specifically used for the New Girl pilot and the show’s first season.
A key to Gold and Counts’ infringement suit was that WME’s access to the script paved the way for it to get into the hands of Chernin and Meriwether. As part of his 24-page judgment, Wilson said the Plaintiffs could not establish that link, a point the Defendants’ argued in a September 9 filing.
The ruling comes after the latest hearing September 21. New Girl debuted in 2011 and returns for its fifth season tomorrow.
David Aaron Grossman, Eric Schwartz and Jonathan Zavin of the NYC offices of Loeb & Loeb are representing Fox, Chernin and Meriwether. Michael Kump and Gregory Philip Korn of Santa Monica’s Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP are representing WME. Francis Malofly of Media, PA’s Francis Alexander LLC and Andrew T. Ryan of Century City’s Ryan Law PLC represent Counts and Gold.
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