"Gone in 60 Seconds" Star "Eleanor" Drives Her Case against Carroll Shelby
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SEE ALSO Gone in 60 Seconds
SAN FRANCISCO May 16, 2007; Denice Halicki, owner of copyright and trademark rights to the classic 1974 movie, the original “Gone in 60 Seconds” and its star car character, “Eleanor,” is setting the record straight about Carroll Shelby's alleged brazen infringement of Halicki's rights to “Eleanor.” In the opening brief to the Ninth Circuit, Halicki’s appellate experts, Tim Coates and Jens Koepke of Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland, show that her rights extend to “Eleanor’s” reprise performance in Disney’s 2000 remake of “Gone in 60 Seconds.”
Halicki spells out in her appeal that after watching the 2000 remake movie and recognizing the extraordinary cachet and appeal of “Eleanor,” Shelby teamed up with Unique Performance to manufacture and sell high-priced knock-off cars that look like one version of “Eleanor,” openly trading on the popularity of “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Despite the fact that Halicki and (her late husband) H.B. “Toby” Halicki have been using those marks worldwide for 33 years, (www.gonein60seconds.com) and thus own the common-law “Eleanor” mark, Shelby went as far as to register a trademark on the character’s name “Eleanor” without contacting Disney or Halicki.
“Using his fame as a legendary car designer, Shelby has convinced consumers and the automotive press that he has the right to produce a new ‘Eleanor’ for the masses,” Halicki points out in her brief prepared by Koepke, an experienced appellate advocate and intellectual property expert. “His bootstrapping scheme with Unique has racked up millions of dollars in profits and confused consumers as to who created 'Eleanor,’” asserts Koepke in the brief.
Shelby and Unique’s chief defense was not that they didn’t infringe, but that Halicki had no standing to bring suit against them. Instead, they argued, it was Disney that owned the “Eleanor” merchandising rights from the 2000 remake “Gone in 60 Seconds.” The District Court adopted this crabbed reading of the agreement between Halicki and Disney despite the fact that Disney signed a separate acknowledgment that it was Halicki who retained the merchandising rights to the remake “Eleanor,” not Disney.
“When faced with both parties to the agreement unequivocally saying that Halicki, not Disney, owns the merchandising rights to 'Eleanor' from the original and the remake, it was error under California law for the District Court to construe the agreement otherwise, much less grant summary judgment to defendants,” Koepke explained to the federal appellate court.
Halicki’s brief describes how Shelby had nothing to do with the creation of either the original or the remake “Eleanor,” yet the defendants printed the character’s name on the VIN tag and added the letter “E” to the name of their knock-off car, calling it the “Shelby G.T. 500E.” Moreover, the brief details how defendants promote the replicas as “Eleanor” of the “recent action-packed blockbuster movie ‘Gone in 60 Seconds,'" promising the car would come with a certificate of authenticity from the “originator of the ‘Eleanor’ movie car (Shelby).”
“We believe that the issues in this case are very clear and Halicki will be granted an opportunity to bring her claims of defendants’ pirating her intellectual property rights to a jury,” concluded Koepke.