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Capital Films Corporation v. Charles Fries Productions, Inc.

628 F.2d 387 (1980)

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Capital Films Corporation v. Charles Fries Productions, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

628 F.2d 387 (1980)

Facts

In 1964, Falcon International Corporation (Falcon) produced and exhibited a fictional movie entitled The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (the Falcon movie) related to President Kennedy’s assassination. However, the movie was not successful, and Falcon stopped exhibiting it. In 1976, Charles Fries Productions (Fries) and American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (defendants) produced a movie (the Fries-ABC movie) with the same premise and title as the Falcon movie. Thereafter, Falcon sold its movie to Capital Films Corporation (Capital) (plaintiff), and Capital began distributing and exhibiting the Falcon movie once again. Capital filed suit against Fries and ABC for unfair competition, alleging, in part, that Fries and ABC had plagiarized the title of the Falcon movie. The district court granted Fries’s and ABC’s motion for summary judgment. A claim for unfair competition for misuse of a title requires a showing that the title obtained a secondary meaning and that duplication of the title caused a likelihood of confusion. The district court found that Capital had established that the Falcon movie’s title had obtained a secondary meaning but that Capital had failed to show that the public would be confused as to the source of the Fries-ABC movie. Capital appealed, arguing that Capital did not have to show that the public would confuse the source of the Fries-ABC movie, but rather that Capital’s showing of reverse confusion—i.e., that the public would be confused as to the source of the Falcon movie—was sufficient.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Garza, J.)

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