Denver, CO (September 24, 2009) – With ski premier season hitting full stride, perhaps the biggest story isn’t about a breakout part or an epic film. Rather, it is about an unprecedented court case in which Warren Miller Entertainment is suing Level 1 Productions for Warren’s appearance in their film.
According to First Tracks Online, “In the litigation filed Monday, WME seeks civil damages for trademark infringement and attorneys fees for Miller’s appearance in Refresh. It also seeks injunctive relief to prevent Level 1 from using Miller’s name in promotional materials, and to force Level 1 to remove any appearances or narration by Miller, now 84, from the film. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger on Tuesday denied WME’s motion for a restraining order to prevent further screenings of the film, which premiered Sept. 18 at the IF3 International Freeski Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, and was subsequently screened in Boulder Wednesday evening.
Warren Miller sold his filmmaking business in 1988 to a predecessor of WME, which is now owned by Bonnier Corporation… According to court documents, WME entered into an agreement with Miller in 1995 granting WME exclusive use of Miller’s name, likeness, voice and endorsement. Notably, however, WME did not name Miller himself as a defendant despite the fact that he apparently agreed to appear in Level 1’s film.”
With the film already screening, some question the timeliness of the appeal to remove Miller from the film.
An article in examiner.com reported that, “Judge Marcia Krieger denied the motion a day later on Tuesday, the day before a screening scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 23 in Boulder, Colo…Krieger wrote in her decision, ‘the Defendant apparently secured Mr. Miller’s agreement to appear in ‘Refresh,’ and should be entitled to identify him to the public and advise the public that Mr. Miller does, in fact, appear in the film.
‘According to the Complaint, every instance in which the Defendant used the ‘WARREN MILLER’ mark involved either Mr. Miller personally identifying himself or the Defendants making reference to Mr. Miller as a participant in the film,’ Krieger added. ‘These uses of Mr. Miller’s name are entirely consonant with the public’s interest in being able to truthfully identify a specific person.’ Krieger also scolded the plaintiff for the late timing of the motion. She questioned if sufficient time was given to Level 1 for a response or possible resolution to WME’s concerns before the matter was taken to court.”
So far, the Judges seem to be siding with Level 1, but this should be an interesting case for intellectual property buffs moving forward. A hearing is scheduled for October 5–stay tuned for more.