Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Fan fiction plan results in lawsuit

The followers of popular television shows or movies sometimes create works of fiction to share with fellow fans. The owners of intellectual property guard their trademarks and copyrights zealously, and media outlets in New Jersey and around the country reported in December 2015 that Paramount Studios and CBS had initiated litigation against a company formed by a group of fans of the popular television and movie franchise 'Star Trek." The fans drew the ire of the entertainment giants by using crowdfunding websites to raise the money necessary to produce a 'Star Trek" movie for fans, and CBS and Paramount filed an amended complaint on March 11 that included specific instances of their alleged copyright infringement.

The lawsuit claims that the fan-produced movie, if it were to be made, would include characters substantially similar to those featured in the groundbreaking 'Star Trek" television series and subsequent motion pictures. The homages of fans have been largely ignored by Hollywood studios and TV producers in the past, but the Trekkies in this case garnered attention by raising large amounts of money on crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

The 'Star Trek" fans behind the contentious film say that they are not bound by intellectual property laws because they do not plan on selling the movie or anything associated with it, but CBS and Paramount have dismissed this argument. The film studio and television network want an injunction to prevent the film being released and damages of up to $150,000 for each of the 57 copyright violations.

Some may read about this case and conclude that it is yet another example of wealthy and powerful corporations using their influence to stifle others, but these companies have investors to consider and intellectual property that may be worth billions to protect. Attorneys with experience in this area will likely know that intellectual property litigation can be complex, time-consuming and extremely expensive, and they may act quickly at the first signs of infringement.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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