A Los Angeles Federal Judge has dismissed several trademark claims made by Lions Gate Entertainment against Havas Worldwide and client Ameritrade related to an ad campaign the defendants launched in 2014.
The ruling came in a decision last week that denied in part and granted in part a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case.
Lions Gate filed suit last July. The allegations centered on an ad campaign that Havas created for its financial services client that ran from October of 2014 until April of 2015 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 alleged that it had a trademark on the iconic phrase "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" from the 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing." The film company said that the tagline from the Ameritrade ad campaign was derivative of the famous line from the movie and therefore violated trademark and copyright law.
Lions Gate had argued in its complaint that the phrase in the ad constituted "unfair competition" and essentially confused consumers and would make them think that the film company somehow endorsed the Ameritrade ad when it didn’t.
But in his decision Judge Dean Pregerson ruled that Lions Gate in its complaint "bleeds together" its copyright, trademark and unfair competition claims — and the facts that support each cause of action — making challenging for the Court, much less defendants, to determine the allegedly separate theories underlying the different rights.”
Furthermore, Judge Pregerson wrote, "it is unclear from the [complaint] what the alleged market 'Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner' has been or is intended to be used for in terms of consumer confusion."
But the judge also wrote that the ad campaign may "potentially" have violated Lions Gate’s copyright to the "Dirty Dancing" movie given that the campaign used "elements" from the film, including making a new tagline from one of its most famous lines; playing on the famous concluding dance scene (man lifting piggy bank over his head) and referencing the film’s famous song with another similar tagline "Because retirement should be the time of your life."
"These actions are potential violations of Plaintiff’s copyright in Dirty Dancing, but there is no trademark infringement or unfair competition based on trademark infringement," Judge Pregerson ruled.