Music, characters, and scripts have all been known to cause copyright infringement issues for movie companies. Most movie goers think movie companies own their own company logo. Surprisingly this is not the case for Millennium Films. Shopping for a new logo, Millennium contacted Technicolor Creative Services to help. Technicolor then contacted Bill Dawson the creative director for XK9 to create and present logo options to Millennium. Bill was paid for his initial work. If his logo was chosen Bill would have received further compensation for his work. Millennium expressed no interest in his work, therefore Bill was not additionally compensated. Months later Bill went to watch a movie. Before the movie he saw the trailer for Conan the Barbarian. At the end of the trailer he saw something familiar, you guessed it, it was one of the logos he designed for Millennium Films. I guess they were interested after all.
A little over six months later, Bill filed suit in the Eastern District of New York Federal Court for copyright infringement and breach of contract. Bill named Millennium Films, Technicolor, and Millennium’s parent company Nu Image as defendants in the suit. Bill is requesting at least $200,000 in monetary damages, and that any material bearing the infringed logo be delivered to him for destruction. Millennium has used the infringed logo on several films, and continues to use it on their website.
The case seems like a pretty straightforward case of copyright infringement. Although I am sure that counsel for the defendants will explore all the possible defenses to copyright infringement, although most will not apply. Counsel for the defendants could use the fact that they paid Bill to create the logo, to demonstrate that the logo was a “work made for hire.” While it might be Millennium’s best defense, it is still a weak argument. It looks like Millennium will be paying Bill Dawson for his work after all, but it would have been much more cost efficient to simply pay him before they started infringing his work.