Archives for posts with tag: federal

This 2005 tax case involved three movies with Ninja in the title. It is also the only federal case with both “ninja” and “zombies” in the opinion – See ZombieLaw: “Astro Zombies in Tax Law” for a prior writeup of this case: Santa Monica Films v. IRS.

SANTA MONICA PICTURES, LLC, PERRY LERNER, TAX MATTERS PARTNER, * Petitioner v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent CORONA FILM FINANCE FUND, LLC, PERRY LERNER, TAX MATTERS PARTNER, Petitioner v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent

Nos. 6163-03, 6164-03
UNITED STATES TAX COURT
T.C. Memo 2005-104; 2005 Tax Ct. Memo LEXIS 104; 89 T.C.M. (CCH) 1157

Opinion by Judge Michael Thornton, filed May 11, 2005

The following film titles and development projects were listed in Schedule 1.6(b) of the exchange and contribution agreement as assets of SMHC:

57. Ninja Hunt

58. Ninja Showdown

59. Ninja Squad



All three are listed by the Court as 1987 movies (though IMDB suggests 1986). The Opinion also reveals that they were originally in the “EBD film library”. They were then sold. The Court notes difficulties in determining the market price of movies because of issues finding comparable films. For comparison noting the movie “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.

in 1993, New Line sold 200 features to Turner Broadcasting for $ 500 million ($ 2.5 million per title); … in 1997, Orion/Samuel Goldwyn sold 2,000 features to MGM for $ 573 million ($ 286,500 per title).

[footnote #135]:
The film library that New Line sold to Turner Broadcasting included the film titles: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles“, “Misery”, and “City Slickers”. The film library that Orion/Samuel Goldwyn sold to MGM included the Academy Award-winning film titles: “Amadeus”, “Platoon”, “Dances With Wolves”, and “The Silence of the Lambs”.

The point is that these movies are not particularly comparable. The transactions involved shifted the losses from failed movies and were deemed to be a tax shelter. The Court here upholds the IRS ruling over the studio’s arguments.

This is, of course, not the first NinjaLaw Federal case to mention the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, nor to mention them even though they are not necessarily relevant to the particularities of the case. Here in 2005, the Turtles movie is listed among a number of modern classics and blockbuster successes.

This 2004 case is about copyright of the design elements of miniature motorcycles.

KIKKER 5150 and KELLY KIKKERT, Plaintiffs, v. KIKKER 5150 USA, LLC, et al., Defendants.
No. C 03-05515 SI

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16859; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P28,895

Decided – August 13, 2004
Opinion by district Judge Susan Illston:

This case concerns copyrights in miniature working motorcycles. Plaintiffs Kikker 5150 and Kelly Kikkert filed their complaint on December 8, 2003 against Kikker 5150 USA, Mark Gholson, and others (defendants or counterclaimants).

At issue is the design element of miniature motorcycles. Not toys, miniature-sized, functional motor vehicles.

defendants argue that “a Formula One race car is no more copyrightable than a Ford Escort and plaintiffs’ miniature motorcycles are no more copyrightable than a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail or a Kawasaki Ninja.” As useful articles, defendants argue, plaintiffs’ miniature motorcycles are precluded from copyright protection.

The Court mostly agrees:

The Court finds that the miniature motorcycles are useful articles and therefore not eligible for copyright protection as such.

But,

The Court also finds, however, for the reasons discussed below, that there are genuine issues of fact concerning whether various “design elements” of the motorcycles “can be identified separately and are capable of existing independently as a work of art.”

The Court cites Fabrica Inc. v. El Dorado Corp., 697 F2d 890, 893 (9th Cir. 1983) which is a case about competing carpet companies and the potentially unfair use of a similar sales system, though the functional elements of are not copyrightable some aesthetic aspects may still be protected.

Therefore,

For this reason, defendant’s motion for summary judgment must be denied.

Summarizing:

Defendants argue that the motorcycles at issue are not copyrightable and ask the Court to issue a preliminary injunction or an order to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue. The Court finds that the motorcycles themselves are not copyrightable, since the motorcycles are useful articles and are not subject to copyright protection. However, since the Certificates of Copyright described the nature of the works as “three-dimensional, sculptural features and design elements of miniature motorcycles,” and since the Court cannot say as a matter of law that the design elements of the motorcycles are not severable and original, the Court declines to grant the motion to summarily adjudicate the copyrights’ invalidity.

No restraining orders where issued and so the case continued, presumably to be settled because I see no subsequent published case history.

Here the Court is quoting the defendant’s reply brief to mention the Ford Escort, the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail and the Kawasaki Ninja. And we’ve seen mentions of the Kawasaki Ninja already in the NinjaLaw Court record . The Heritage Softail appears is four Federal Opinions and the Kikker 5150 case is its second appearance, the prior also being an intellectual property case. In contrast this is the first use of the Kawasaki Ninja in an IP case and the prior cases were all mentions of the actual bike. And the Ford Escort appears in over 300 cases beginning in the early 80s.

Note: here’s a warning about the dangers of Kikker bikes

Ultimately, this Kikker 5150 case stands for principles of copyright in toys – that is, that toys are copyrightable as to the aspects that are not part of the usable functions specifically. So it is fitting that “ninja” is mentioned here, because as we know from ninja law, “ninja” is strongly related to toys.

This 1997 Federal Court opinion involved multiple major Hollywood movie companies suing a video rental company for copyright infringement. The movie “3 Ninjas Knuckle Up”, copyright held by Columbia Tristar, is listed as involved in the litigation.

video city

COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES, INC.; BUENA VISTA PICTURES DISTRIBUTION, INC.; DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.; METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES, INC.; PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION; TRISTAR PICTURES, INC.; TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION; UNITED ARTISTS PICTURES, INC.; UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC.; WARNER BROS., A Division of TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P.; COLUMBIA TRISTAR HOME VIDEO; LIVE HOME VIDEO, INC. (LIVE AMERICA INC.); TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
DOMINGO LANDA, individually and d/b/a VIDEO CITY and MOVIE TRAK; JASON FRANK, individually and d/b/a TAKE TWO VIDEO; and SYED AHMED, individually and d/b/a VIDEO CITY, Defendants.


Columbia v. Landa
Case No. 96-1340
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
974 F. Supp. 1

Decided – June 26, 1997

Judge Joe Billy McDade writing for the Court explains:

Plaintiffs, numerous motion picture producers and distributors, filed this action against Defendants, three movie rental store owners, on July 11, 1996. The named Defendants include Domingo Landa, d/b/a VIDEO CITY and MOVIE TRAK, Jason Frank, d/b/a TAKE TWO VIDEO, and Syed Ahmed, d/b/a VIDEO CITY. 1 Plaintiffs Amended Complaint [Doc. # 33] alleges that Defendants illegally duplicated and distributed motion picture videocassettes in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 106 (Copyright Infringement) and 5 U.S.C. § 1125(a) (Trademark Infringement).

An extensive array of movies videocassettes were seized from the defendants, and “3 Ninjas Knuckle Up” appears first in the list because the number three is first alphabetically.

The Court, granting Plaintiff’s motion for Summary Judgment, finds that there was copying and orders damages and permanent injunction relief. Interesting, despite finding that Defendant’s “illegal activity” was “pervasive” and with “total disregard for copyright law”, there is no finding as to willful infringement. Such a finding could have increased the liability tremendously but:

In the instant action, Plaintiffs do not seek a finding that the infringing acts of Defendants were willful. (See Doc. # 61 at p. 8). Rather, Plaintiffs insist that an award against Landa and Frank in the amount of $ 1,000 per infringement is just and proper.

The Court agrees, and so with 207 infringing video cassettes, the defendants owe $207.000. And in 1997, I am sure that sounded like a huge award for a copyright case.

But contrast with the future (err. the present), the more recent cases, where similar Plaintiffs have taken a more aggressive position on digital content. For example see Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum and of course, the prosecution of NinjaVideo.