Battle of the Kung Fu Pandas

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

DreamWorks has been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit. Jayme Gordon filed his lawsuit in federal court in Boston claiming that DreamWorks is infringing on his copyrights on the idea of a chunky panda with kung fu prowess, as well as several other animal characters.

The complaint alleges striking similarities between Gordon’s work and DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda. The image at left is from the complaint and lends credence to that allegation.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants had the opportunity to view Gordon’s illustrations. He met Michael Eisner at a Disney World event and was asked to supply his works to Disney, which Gordon did. At the time Eisner was Chairman and CEO of Disney and supervisor to Jeffrey Katzenberg who was Chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Katzenberg would later formed DreamWorks Studios with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

Assuming the allegations are true, I don’t understand the motive. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to purchase the copyrighted material than to go through a lawsuit? Sure, they can drag out the lawsuit for years, incurring more in attorney fees than it would have cost them originally. Maybe not. Maybe they considered the risk that Gordon would sue acceptable. As a contingency plan, DreamWorks’ attorneys should be working on a settlement offer.

I’m assuming that Gordon’s attorneys are working on a contingency basis. In his suit, Gordon seeks all profits “in an amount which cannot yet be fully ascertained, but which shall be assessed at the time of trial.” It’s going to take an army of accountants to dig through the morass that is a studio’s bookkeeping.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is scheduled for release on May 26.

H/T: Am Law Daily, Complaint (pdf).

10 thoughts on “Battle of the Kung Fu Pandas”

  1. ah, guess I should have read the article first šŸ™‚

    Seems there are a bit more similarities than just the kung-fu panda itself

  2. I’m not convinced there was any stealing here.

    Pandas are from China. Having a panda having martial art prowess is hardly a unique idea. During the 70’s/80’s I played a ton of roleplaying games. I played a kung-fu panda in 2 different games. My character – which also was pudgy predates Mr Gordon’s.

    I am sure there were many other incidences of such creations.

  3. MikeS, when it comes to copyright the music industry and RIAA (Recording Industry of America Association) gets a lot of protection and assistance from the government when it comes to copyright. I don’t know what DHS (Homeland Security) has to do with copyright but whatever it is, if it’s part of their mandate, it tells me their mandate is too broad.:

    “Homeland Security shuts down dozens of Web sites without court order

    Homeland Security’s ability to shut down sites without a court order evidently comes from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a Clinton-era law that allows Web sites to be closed on the basis of a copyright complaint. Critics have long assailed the DMCA for being too broad, as complainants don’t need to prove copyright infringement before a site can be taken down.”

  4. What Mike S. said! It is amazing how much corporations get away with that normal “citizens” would not be allowed to even attempt.

  5. The campaigns against copyright infringement take on moral tones when backed by the Music and Film Industry. You see commercials talking about the ill-gotten gains of “bootleggers” stealing an artist’s work. You even see police raids confiscating the “bootlegged” material and arresting its’ purveyors. Yet somehow these corporate paragons of morality and concern for the artist, have different standards in their own behavior.

  6. It’s apparently okay with Congress for you to steal if you’re already wealthy or a corporation.

  7. Nal,

    You have hit on something and it really stinks in the patent world…Most people that invent things have no ideal or how expensive the specialized patent world works….

    In some cases it is cheaper to steal the works…Take for instance the intermittent windshield wiper…. All of the Auto Manufactures used this invention and each claimed that they developed it and had a right to use it…It was tinkered by a person working at Ford with a free range inventions contract… It took years before it was settled against one Manufacturer….After a Trial….. and then Chrysler was the greatest offender…

    The money paid is and was chump changed I think 3/4 of 1 cent….

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