The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is suing to block a Beverly Hills auction house from selling Valerie Harper’s four Emmy statuettes because the sale this week would tarnish the award, according to a complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
The Emmy awards that Harper received for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda are estimated at $5,000 to $7,000 each on the Julien’s Auctions website, where they are set to be sold Friday and Saturday. The TV Academy says if the sale is allowed to proceed it will undermine the prestige of the award.
The actress died in August at age 80.
The Television Academy also claims the trophies are not the property of Harper’s estate because the awards are loans, not gifts.
Darren Julien, president and chief executive officer of the auction house, said the lawsuit was “meritless” and Julien’s would oppose it in court.
“Julien’s Auctions, and many other auction houses, have sold dozens of Emmy statuettes at auction without incident for decades,” he said. “It appears that the Television Academy is now attempting to enforce new rules retroactively. Those rules are totally at odds with their own earlier policies and practices.”
Julien said the Harper estate was “not told of and did not agree to any ownership restrictions that the Television Academy is now trying to impose. Julien’s has always honored valid obligations and restrictions. These are neither.”
According to the complaint, filed late Tuesday, the Academy repeatedly asked that Julien’s withdraw Harper’s Emmys from the sale, but the auction house refused.
The suit includes copyright infringement among its allegations, asks for a court order returning Harper’s statuettes to the academy and seeks a jury trial for unspecified damages.
City News Service contributed to this report.