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Rossner v. CBS, Inc.

612 F. Supp. 334 (1985)

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Rossner v. CBS, Inc.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

612 F. Supp. 334 (1985)

Facts

In 1975, Judith Rossner (plaintiff) wrote and published a novel entitled Looking for Mr. Goodbar (the novel), loosely based on the real-life murder of Roseann Quinn (the Quinn murder). Rossner assigned Paramount Pictures Corporation (Paramount) (defendant) the exclusive rights to produce a motion picture using the novel and its title. Accordingly, in 1977, Paramount produced a movie (the Paramount movie) based on the novel and with the same title. Thereafter, the term “Goodbar” was used in other titles of other articles and books and was used generally in the media to refer to the Quinn murder, but Rossner never attempted to prevent these uses. In 1981, Grosso-Jacobson, Incorporated (Grosso) (defendant) agreed to produce a television movie about the Quinn murder for CBS, Incorporated (defendant). The movie was broadcast in 1983 bearing the title Trackdown: Finding the Goodbar Killer (the CBS movie). Paramount, CBS, and Grosso subsequently entered an agreement under which Paramount consented to the use of “Goodbar” in the CBS movie’s title as long as CBS and Grosso did not insinuate that the CBS movie was derived from or related to the novel or Paramount movie. Rossner filed suit alleging false designation of origin and unfair competition in violation of the Lanham Act. Rossner asserted that she held a trademark on “Goodbar” and that the CBS movie title’s use of “Goodbar” misappropriated Rossner’s reputation and goodwill and infringed the trademark. The district court issued a consent order providing that the CBS movie was required to include a disclaimer to let viewers know the CBS movie was not connected to Rossner or her novel. The district court later addressed the trademark status of “Goodbar.”

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (MacMahon, J.)

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