|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
This month, the swashbuckling hero portrayed in film by actors including Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Tyrone Power, George Hamilton and Antonio Bandaras, and in a Disney tv series by Guy Williams, starred in a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. In Robert W. Cabell v. Zorro Productions, Inc. et al., the author of a musical based on the swordsman filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment, cancellation of federal trademarks, injunctive relief and monetary damages.
Cabell alleges his 1996 musical tribute, Z--The Musical of Zorro, is based on Zorro creator Johnston McCulley's The Curse of Capistrano (1919) and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s silent classic The Mark of Zorro (1920). According to his Complaint, reported by Courthouse News Service and THR, Esq., Cabell secured licensing for performance of his musical in Germany (nothing like multiple stabbings and shootings to get German audiences whistling as they leave the theater), but was purportedly confronted with threats of litigation by Zorro Productions, Inc. head John Gertz.
In support of its claim that Zorro has entered the public domain, Caball's Complaint cites a federal judge's footnote in a 2001 case from the United States District Court for the Western Division of the Central District of California, Sony Pictures v. Fireworks Entertainment (156 F.Supp.2d 1148 (2001)), that states: "It is undisputed that Zorro appears in works whose copyrights have already expired, such as McCulley's story, 'The Curse of Capistrano' and Fairbanks' movie, 'The Mark of Zorro.'"
The plaintiff's Complaint alleges the defendants have "fraudulently obtained federal trademark registrations" for various Zorro marks and "built a licensing empire out of smoke and mirrors." Long-time favorite fictional heroes, from Tarzan (see "TUOL" post 2/17/12) to Sherlock Holmes (see "TUOL" post 2/19/13) have been the subject of intellectual property lawsuits in recent times.
Rather than consume precious court time, "TUOL" suggests the parties settle their dispute with epees--the Z-Man would have wanted it that way.