Lionsgate Studios, as you may remember, was last seen absolutely losing its mind over the leak of Expendables 3, which [insert snarky comment about movie quality here]. The studio’s reaction to the leak was to peel off a massive lawsuit, get a restraining order, and go takedown crazy. Between those actions and the studio’s willingness to go the DMCA and/or legal route in silencing a documentary about The Pirate Bay, not to mention a video that the Copyright Office itself used as an example of Fair Use, it’s clear that Lionsgate doesn’t mind firing off legal shots at questionable targets.
And, in case you thought this trend had somehow abated, it hasn’t. The latest example is Lionsgate apparently suing TD Ameritrade for trademark violation after the latter had included in one of its advertisements the line, “Nobody puts your old 401(k) in the corner.” You can see the commercial here, but essentially: a guy holds up his piggy bank in a manner similar to the dance moves from the movie.
Yeah, it’s an imperfect reference to a line from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” Lionsgate apparently owns the rights to that movie. The studio has also apparently filed for trademark on the line for items such as books, clothing and household items. None of those categories appears to include financial services, but that hasn’t stopped Lionsgate from demanding a ton of money for the use in the now-discontinued commercial.
A letter sent by Lionsgate on April 2 is said to have demanded that TD America cease the advertisement and pay Lionsgate a seven figure amount to settle its claim. (Besides trademark, the film studio is said to have “alluded” to copyright as well.). In an action filed on Friday in New York federal court seeking declaratory relief, TD America and its marketing agency Havas Worldwide say they wish “to put to rest the baseless, overreaching claims asserted by Lionsgate.”
The plaintiffs say there’s no evidence that anyone was confused while the advertisement ran for a seven-month period. They add they have no plans to use the ad in the future.
And so TD Ameritrade is seeking relief via the court to basically swat Lionsgate off its back, like some kind of seven-figure-sucking mosquito. Not all use requires permission, after all, and a trademark case involving trademarks that have been applied for areas in which the use doesn’t occur doesn’t seem like great legal footing from Lionsgate’s standpoint. Instead it comes across as a pure moneygrab, attempting to extract cash for the use of a line from a movie released in the 80’s that no reasonable person had any possible chance of being confused by. If the studio wants to actually build a case around the idea that the public is really stupid, let it try, but I expect it to back down instead.