Havas Worldwide New York and client TD Ameritrade have asked the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to dismiss a trademark and copyright infringement suit brought against them by Lions Gate Entertainment. The suit relates to ads created by Havas for an Ameritrade campaign that the movie studio said misappropriated intellectual property connected with the film “Dirty Dancing.”
The motions to dismiss the case, filed last Tuesday, come just weeks after the two defendants lost a bid to have the suit tried in New York. However a U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan ruled that the proper venue was Los Angeles, where Lions Gate is based and where it filed suit in July. That claim was filed shortly after Havas and Ameritrade sought a preemptive ruling in New York that the studio did not have a case.
In its latest motion Havas argued that the Los Angeles Court does not have jurisdiction over the agency, which is based in New York. Whether that argument flies remains to be seen—in ruling that the case belonged in Los Angeles, Judge Katherine Forrest of the Manhattan Court noted that Havas Worldwide appears to do business as a national entity and has offices in both San Francisco and San Diego.
The Lions Gate allegations center on an ad campaign that Havas created for its financial services client Ameritrade that ran from October of last year until April of this year that featured a man holding a piggy bank over his head with the tag line “Nobody Puts Your Old 401(k) in the corner.” Lions Gate argues that the tag line too closely resembles a line from the movie, “Nobody puts Baby in a Corner.”
According to Lions Gate the image of the man in the Ameritrade ad lifting a piggy bank over his head is evocative of the famous “dance lift” scene near the end of the movie where actor Patrick Swayze lifts “Baby” (portrayed by Jennifer Grey) over his head.
Lions Gate alleged that the “infringing art” in the ads was “intentionally designed to be virtually identical” to the dance lift in the movie.
In its motion to dismiss Ameritrade (filing separately from Havas) argued that the tagline and image in the ads are not protected by copyright law. “Lions Gate has alleged the use of only unprotected, vague ideas from the movie (such as the idea of a dance lift and unspecified ‘other words and indicia’), along with a single line of dialog which itself is not copyrightable,” the firm stated in its brief.