IP Infringement in Hazzard County

There’s trouble in Hazzard County, and for once it has nothing to do with those Duke boys crossing the county line. Warner Brothers reportedly had to pay $17.5 million to settle a copyright claim over the movie rights to the Dukes of Hazzard as the result of a simple oversight. It’s a little-known fact that the TV series was actually based on a 1975 film titled Moonrunners. Warner Brothers secured the rights to create the TV show back in 1978, but the agreement said nothing about movie rights.

Warner Brothers was presented with a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and requesting an injunction to stop the new movie’s marketing and release by the owner of the film rights to Moonrunners. The injunction was granted and Warner Brothers had to rush to the negotiating table weeks before their advertising blitz was scheduled to begin. The production budget for the film was $53 million, and the studio’s advertising campaign for the film was an additional $30 million, placing their project in dire straits. Warner Brother’s failure to perform a very basic intellectual property clearance procedure added over 20% to the cost of the film.

This is a catastrophic example of what can happen when you don’t dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s in the world of intellectual property. The following are some basic procedures that can reduce the likelihood of intellectual property claims:

· Contractual acquisition of all relevant rights, releases and consents

· Legal review of content prior to dissemination

· New hire and independent contractor agreements prohibiting the use of a previous employer or client’s intellectual property

· Review by a qualified audiologist for musical compositions

· Title, trademark and/or service mark searches

Whether you are releasing a motion picture film or a new software product, it is a lot less expensive to address potential issues early on rather than later.