Los Angeles, CA – August 21, 2015 – Fleischer Studios, Inc. ("Fleischer") and its attorneys from Venable's Los Angeles office today were awarded $216,220.21 in attorneys' fees and costs in connection with their successful defense against a malicious prosecution and interference suit brought by A.V.E.L.A., Inc. ("AVELA"). Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Feffer found the fee requests presented by Fleischer and its attorneys after Fleischer had prevailed on an earlier anti-SLAPP motion to be reasonable.
Fleischer's successful anti-SLAPP and attorneys' fee motions are a total and comprehensive legal victory for Fleischer. AVELA's claims that Fleischer had maliciously prosecuted an earlier federal trademark case relating to Fleischer's Betty Boop intellectual property rights and interfered with AVELA's third-party relationships by threatening litigation against those third parties were dismissed with prejudice under California's anti-SLAPP (Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law.
With respect to the anti-SLAPP motion, Fleischer's lawyers argued that the earlier trademark action against AVELA was protected litigation activity, shifting the burden to AVELA to prove a likelihood of prevailing. They contended that AVELA could not meet its burden, as there was no evidence showing that Fleischer or its co-defendant did anything other than press legitimate claims by Fleischer relating to its incontestable Betty Boop trademark rights. Fleischer also argued that AVELA had no evidence supporting any claim premised on alleged litigation threats.
Judge Feffer agreed with Fleischer and its team in granting the anti-SLAPP motion, and dismissed AVELA's claims with prejudice. In granting the anti-SLAPP motion, Judge Feffer noted that "[t]he undisputed evidence with this court is that Fleischer possessed incontestable word mark trademarks" relating to Betty Boop. She also noted that Fleischer had been supported in the underlying intellectual property case by several third-party amicus briefs filed when that case was pending in the Ninth Circuit. The entities filing those briefs included MLB Properties, NBA Properties, NFL Properties, NHL Enterprises, and the Motion Picture Association of America.
Fleischer Studios has owned the rights to Betty Boop for three generations, since Max Fleischer created the character in 1930. A Broadway show and feature film starring Betty Boop are currently in the works.
Referring to the previous suit between Fleischer and AVELA, Mark Fleischer, chairman and CEO of Fleischer Studios and grandson of Max Fleischer, noted: "Filing this lawsuit against us was like a schoolyard bully saying, 'It all started when he hit me back.' We are pleased that the courts agreed that this was not a malicious prosecution or a meritless claim and awarded us our attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in defending against this meritless lawsuit. We will continue to go on as we always have, licensing this wonderful character, who is loved worldwide."
The Venable team was led by Douglas Emhoff, Venable's Managing Director, West Coast, who splits his time between the firm's San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, and senior associate Eric Bakewell of the firm's Los Angeles office.
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