Sunday, February 25, 2007

"La Dolce Vita" namesake spurs a trademark lawsuit

I saw "La Dolce Vita" in 2004 at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, MD, the three hour black and white Cinemascope film in its original 1960 American International release (AIP was known in its day for motorcycle movies like "Born Losers"). International Media Pictures now owns the rights to La Dolce Vita ("The Sweet Life") and the distritbutor recently sued Andrei Treivis Bregman (aka pseudonum Micjael Lucas) for trademark and copyright infringement for his Parts 1 and 2 of the porn adventure "Michael Lucas's La Dolce Vita". The AP story appeared in the Feb. 16 2007 Washington Blade, link here.

In the Feb 23 issue of The Washington Blade, a reader pointed out that (run by contains many examples of movies with the same or similar titles but different plots, concepts, and characters. The same is true in general with books and novels--as one can tell by browsing or quickly. Typically, a book title or movie title can be trademarked only when it becomes a series. So, for example, IDG books's "For Dummies" series owns valid trademark rights (similarly so does "Idiot's Guide"). In the same way, a movie franchise probably would claim trademark rights. For example, "Scary Movie" (now complete with Dr. Phil) belonging to Dimension Films and The Weinstein Company. One interesting situation for me could be presented by a series of films called "The Substitute", which generally deals with paramilitary people coming into school systems and pretending to be substitute teachers. I have a feature-length screenplay script called "The Sub" (which has a totally different take on substitute teaching, to say the least) and if I wanted to sell it (with this title) I would probably have to have an agent negotiate with studios owning that series (I believe that may be Lions Gate, since Artisan owned it before).

A lot of movies on imdb have "working titles" (there is even a movie production company called "Working Title") and titles sometimes change, sometimes in specific countries. For example, Universal's "The Good Shepherd" opened in December as a film about the history of the CIA, but there had been an earlier small film with that title in 2004 about a Catholic priest accused of murder, but that film was changed to "The Confessor". I guess it was just conincidence that Warner Brothers released the 40s-film-noir parody "The Good German" at the same time as the Universal picture.

In any event, the "Dolce Vita" lawsuit filed in New York sounds frivolous (even just plain dumb), and supports calls for tort reform and "loser pays". I hope it is dismissed summarily. No one with any common sense could be confused by the Lucas film.

My review of "La Dolce Vita" (1960) is on this file.

Picture: Overlord Memorial, Bedford, Va.

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