NinjaLaw has already posted about three prior mentions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Federal Court opinions but it was in 1994 that for the first time, a Federal Court opinion was actually involving them as intellectual property in dispute.
MIRAGE STUDIOS, a Massachusetts general partnership, Plaintiff, v. WENG C. YONG, MERRY M. YONG, DENNIS C.M. LOW and DOES 1-5 inclusive, dba TAI FUNG TRADING; et al., Defendants.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5618
The opinion is by Judge Vaughn R. Walker. You may recall he is also the judge who recently ruled that California’a Proposition 22 was unconstitutional in case Perry v. Schwarzenegger about gay marriage case.
Written April 29, 1994:
On July 15, 1993, Mirage Studios (“Mirage”) filed this action for copyright and trademark infringement against a group of thirty-four retailers, distributors and manufacturers, alleging that each of the named defendants has infringed and threatens to further infringe upon Mirage’s copyrighted and trademarked “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
I presume this was mostly for infringing tee-shirts. And as is typical, the copyright holder asked for maximum damages, in this case $10,000 but Judge Walker found no evidence of any such actual damages and ordered only $500 per defendant (34×500 is $17,000). Also the Judge ordered attorney’s fees of “$780 in attorney fees and $40 in service costs per defendant” – that $780 is the attorney’s bill of “5.2 hours (at $150 per hour)”.
The Court also chides the defendants who did not answer the complaints suggesting that they could have more easily settled the case in advance, but I wonder because attorney fees to answer could only have increased costs.
So this is the first time TMNT is actually directly involved in a Federal Court opinion. But recall the previous NinjaLaw posts about the prior tangential mentions the characters:
First mention of TMNT in Federal Courts
Sun Dun v Coca Cola – August 15, 1991
– Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles again – Retromutagen Ooze
Monarch v. Ritam – June 12, 1992
– Ninja Turtles and Hollywood’s Horizontal Conspiracy
El Cajon v. AMC – October 23, 1992
Don’t worry, there’s more to come too.