Disney Must Defend Against Screenwriter’s ‘Muppet Babies’ Reboot Lawsuit

A screen displays the logo and a ticker symbol for The Walt Disney Company on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • Jeffrey Scott accused Disney of stealing the original show’s work
  • Court says Scott sufficiently alleged copyright infringement, fraud

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co has lost a bid to dismiss a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles brought by a writer of the 1980s animated TV series “Muppet Babies” who claims the company misused his job for a reboot of the show in 2018.

U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld said in an opinion released Monday that Jeffrey Scott plausibly pleaded for copyright infringement and other claims arising from Disney’s alleged failure to pay for the use of his scripts and other elements of the original broadcast.

Stephen Rothschild of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, an attorney representing Scott and his bankruptcy trustee Howard Ehrenberg, said Tuesday his clients were “grateful for the Court’s thoughtful dismantling of Disney’s specious arguments, but disappointed that Disney is continuing to refuse to recognize and pay Mr. Scott.

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Disney and its attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The February lawsuit said Scott — who also developed and wrote for several other animated series, including Disney’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “DuckTales” — wrote most episodes for the original series’ first three years. Muppet Babies”. The show was created by Marvel Productions Ltd, now owned by Disney.

Scott accused Disney of ripping off his scripts and his “production bible”, which included the “fundamental elements” of the original show, including character traits, gags, show structures and his character. from nanny, when restarting. The lawsuit also said Scott met with Disney in 2016, where he came up with ideas for the reboot that Disney ultimately used.

Scott accused Disney of copyright infringement, fraud and breach of implied contract. Blumenfeld denied Disney’s requests to dismiss the claims on Monday.

Blumenfeld said Scott made a plausible argument that Disney had copied “at least some copyrightable elements” of his work, including the nanny character and parts of specific scripts.

Disney may also have had an implied contract with Scott based on its history of paying him to develop ideas and may have broken it by using his ideas without paying, Blumenfeld said.

The court also allowed Blumenfeld’s fraud claim to proceed based on his allegations that Disney lied about its intentions to “move on” with him on the reboot.

The case is Ehrenberg v. Walt Disney Co, US District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:22-cv-01136.

For Ehrenberg, on behalf of Scott: Stephen Rothschild and Howard King of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano

For Disney: Erin Cox and Brandon Martinez of Munger, Tolles & Olson

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Blake Brittain

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Contact him at [email protected]