Fleischer Studios v. A.V.E.L.A., Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 08-19-2011
  • Case #: 09-56317
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wallace for the Court; Circuit Judge Graber and Senior District Judge Mills
  • Full Text Opinion

In an agreement regarding the purchase agreement of Betty Boop cartoons, the chain of title regarding copyright of the character was carved out. As such, the transfers of copyright made after the agreement did not pass copyright to the plaintiff.

Original Fleischer created numerous cartoons featuring the Betty Boop character. Original Fleischer licensed the character for use, but later sold all rights and dissolved in 1946. In the 1970s, plaintiff Max Fleischer attempted to revive the business and now claims rights to the copyright and trademark of Betty Boop. Defendants create restored vintage posters featuring Betty Boop’s image and claim license to the character. On appeal, Fleischer only asserts one chain of ownership to the Betty Boop copyright (Original Fleischer to Paramount, Paramount to UM&M, UM&M to NTA, and NTA/Republic Pictures to Fleischer). Defendants filed for summary judgment regarding this title chain. The district court granted summary judgment for plaintiff’s failure to show the transfer of rights through the asserted chain. The court also dismissed plaintiff’s trademark infringement claim. Plaintiff appealed. The Ninth Circuit determined that Paramount did NOT transfer its copyright to UM&M per the original contract, and held that Fleischer did not establish a proper chain of title. Additionally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying additional trademark evidence. The Court could not determine the legal basis for the district court’s denial of the claim, however, and vacated the trademark decision and remanded the issue for further proceedings. This opinion supersedes 636 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2011). AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART.

Advanced Search