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Donahue v. Ziv Television Programs, Inc.
California Court of Appeals
245 Cal. App. 2d 593, 54 Cal. Rptr. 130 (1966)
In 1955, Frank Donahue and others (collectively, Donahue) (plaintiffs) created the idea for a television show called The Underwater Legion (the Donahue show). Donahue subsequently submitted the idea and several story outlines in writing to Ziv Television Programs, Incorporated (Ziv) and its producer, Tors (defendants). During meetings between Donahue and Ziv executives, the executives discussed the different types of deal options for Donahue to be compensated if Ziv used Donahue’s idea, but no concrete terms were ever decided. In 1958, Ziv aired a television program entitled Sea Hunt (the Ziv show), which was similar to the Donahue show with respect to plot, themes, sequence, and other dramatic features. Donahue filed suit against Ziv and Tor for breach of contract, alleging that Ziv and Tor had used Donahue’s idea and story outlines for the Ziv show without compensating Donahue. Ziv argued that it had not used any portion of Donahue’s idea that was protected by copyright or trademark and that the idea for the Ziv show had been independently conceived by Tors. A jury found in Donahue’s favor, but the trial court granted Ziv’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and a new trial. Donahue appealed and provided substantial evidence that Tors had used Donahue’s idea and story outlines in producing the Ziv show.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kaus, J.)
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