Conan O’Brien and writers and producers of his late-night TBS talk show might be heading to court as part of a lawsuit that claims they lifted several jokes performed in the show’s monologue from a blogger. It comes after a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California judge last week dismissed claims on two of five jokes in a summary judgment ruling but allowed claims on three other jokes to move forward.
Alex Kaseberg originally filed suit in July 2015 saying O’Brien performed the five jokes on Conan after Kaseberg had published them either on his blog on on Twitter. Three jokes were not granted summary judgment: A February 14, 2015, gag about Tom Brady giving his MVP trophy to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, a February 17, 2015, joke about the Washington Monument’s shorter height attributed to “shrinkage” and a June 9, 2015, joke about towns needing to rename streets already named for Bruce Jenner.
“And in any case, the allegedly infringing and infringed-upon jokes both focus on expression of these common ideas as they relate to the then-recent study establishing the Monument’s ten-inch decrease,” Judge Janis Sammartino wrote in a ruling filed Friday (read it here). “This is a specific expression the year-old joke did not share, and is therefore sufficient to create a triable issue of fact regarding the Washington Monument Joke and whether the year-old joke qualifies as prior creation. Accordingly, the Court DENIES summary judgment on this point.”
Kaseberg is a longtime joke writer who often contributed jokes to Jay Leno on The Tonight Show and has been published in newspapers and magazines. He claims his attempts to reach out to Conan staffers over the jokes in question were unsuccessful, leading to the copyright infringement action.
The lawsuit names O’Brien, his Conaco production company, TBS, Conan executive producer Jeff Ross and head writer Mike Sweeney as defendants.
No trial date was set.