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Dastar Corporation v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Supreme Court of the United States
539 U.S. 23 (2003)



Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (Fox) (defendant) had been granted exclusive television rights to the book Crusade in Europe. Fox produced a television series with the same title in 1949. The series entered the public domain in 1977 after its copyright expired. Fox reacquired the television rights to the book in 1988, and this included exclusive rights to the old television series. Dastar Corporation (Dastar) used the original version of the Crusade in Europe series to make its own series called World War II Campaigns in Europe. Dastar edited the original series and did not provide any attributing credit to Fox. Fox sued Dastar in 1998 on the grounds that Dastar violated copyright law by not giving proper credit to Fox and violated the Lanham Act under the theory of reverse passing off. The district court found that Dastar had infringed on Fox’s copyright and trademark and granted Fox’s summary judgment motion. The district court stated that the test for copyright and trademark infringement centered on whether Dastar’s actions would likely deceive or confuse the public. Dastar appealed this decision. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s trademark-infringement decision on the theory of reverse passing off but reversed and remanded the copyright ruling as requiring a separate analysis. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the trademark infringement decision.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

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