There is often much to admire about the tenacity to go tilting at windmills as today’s almost total repeat attempt of an already once failed copyright suit against the Walt Disney Company over Oscar winner Zootopia charged anew into the docket.
Now jousting in Los Angeles Superior Court after being dismissed in federal court last summer, Total Recall screenwriter Gary L. Goldman’s Esplanade Productions is once again claiming the House of Mouse had sticky fingers and lifted his “artwork, dialogue, characters (both character traits and designs), themes, settings, and plot structure.” Dropping the copyright claim that was in the initial March 2017 federal action, today’s jury seeking breach of implied fact contract complaint (read it here) also alleges that Disney “even took its title, Zootopia” – just like the federal suit did.
As he did before, Goldman says in this latest complaint that he pitched the idea for his Zootopia to executives at and connected to Disney in 2000 and 2009. That plus a lot of side-by-side comparisons and claims of sitdowns wasn’t enough to convince the judge last year that there was a there there, as they say – at least not in federal court.
“In this action, as in every action, it is the plaintiff’s obligation to allege sufficient facts, if proved true, to permit a jury to rule in the plaintiff’s favor,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald on July 11 2017, stressing not enough actual evidence of infringement. “Esplanade has not met that burden here,” he concluded. Fitzgerald also said that “the allegations themselves actively obfuscate the details of the infringement.”
As they appeal in federal court and picking up on a suggestion by Judge Fitzgerald to maybe take the matter to state court, the plaintiffs have decided to try try again.
Backed by the same Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP lawyers who worked on the first case and with a lot of the same language cut and pasted, Esplanade are clearly hoping the change of judicial venue will prove more amenable to their efforts. Like in the short lived federal case, which Esplanade was given leave to amend when it was curb stomped, is seeking wide ranging but unspecified damages, an injunction and full look at Disney’s books over the more than $1 billion box office generator.
Or to put it more bluntly, as the image heavy filing of today asserts: “Although The Walt Disney Company rigorously acts to protect its own intellectual property, it apparently has developed business policies and a corporate culture that accept and encourage the unauthorized, and uncompensated use of others work.”
That too by the way is very similar to what the lawsuit of last year said of the ever expanding Bob Iger run media giant and the March 2016 released pic that Jared Bush and Phil Johnston penned and Bryon Howard helmed.
Alas, Disney themselves had nothing to say yet about today’s complaint when we reached out to them for comment. Though, never liking to give the last word to others, don’t be surprised if they pledge to vigorously defend themselves or something like that later.
In the meantime, enjoy some of the compare and contrast images that Goldman, Esplanade and the gang at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP have put on display in the hopes of proving their point: