Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Columbia Pictures Takes On Leo Stoller In "STEALTH" Movie DJ Action

Columbia Pictures has brought a civil action in federal court in Chicago, seeking a declaratory judgment that its use of the title "Stealth" for a movie scheduled for release on July 29, 2005, does not infringe upon or dilute Leo Stoller's purported rights in the mark STEALTH. Columbia Pictures Indus., Inc. v. Stoller et al., Civil Action No. 05-C-2052 (N.D. Ill.).

In its 14-page complaint (available for downloading here), filed on April 7, 2005, Columbia asserts that Stoller and his companies "improperly seek to deprive Plaintiff of the right to use as the title of a literary work . . . a word in the English language that expressively communicates the content of the Motion Picture to its intended audience." Columbia describes the movie as follows:

"The Motion Picture 'Stealth,' starring Academy Award®-winner Jamie Foxx, Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Sam Shephard, tells the fictional story of a top-secret military program involving a fully autonomous and very lethal prototype stealth fighter bomber that unexpectedly develops human-like consciousness."

Columbia contends that the title "Stealth" has logical and artistic relevance to the film because it:

"refers among other things to the bombers featured in the Motion Picture -- which have the ability to "go stealth" and fly undetected through the skies -- the secrecy surrounding the fictional military program, and the treacherous and stealth-like actions of many of the characters in the Motion Picture."

Stoller, in his March 2005 correspondence with Plaintiff threatening litigation (copies attached as exhibits to the complaint), claims that the STEALTH mark has been built into a "national brand" and is famous. He further asserts that defendants "are receiving numerous communications from third parties who are confused regarding Sony's STEALTH movie as to source." Stoller offered to license the STEALTH mark to Plaintiff on royalty terms that are a bit incomprehensible: "On a quarterly basis, or any portion thereof . . . 1% (two percent) of the gross selling price per quarter." Apparently, Columbia has declined that offer.

Columbia's complaint includes a handy list of reported federal court cases involving Stoller and/or his companies. Columbia asserts that "No court in any reported opinion has ever found any infringement or dilution of any rights held by Stoller or his companies."

Columbia further notes, with a list of citations, that Stoller "has often been sanctioned and ordered to pay attorneys' fees and costs arising from the initiation of meritless litigation."

And finally, Columbia observes (again with citations) that "courts have repeatedly held that the trademark rights of Stoller and his companies in the STEALTH trademark are weak, to the extent they exist at all."

TTABlog comment: If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Columbia in this one.

Text ©John L. Welch 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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