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Ansel Adams Trust Argues Its Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Attorneys for the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust say they can prove Fresno collector Rick Norsigian violated the famous photographer's trademark by marketing a set of glass negatives bought at a garage sale as "Ansel Adams Lost Negatives," and, if necessary, the trust can show that the negatives were in fact made by a talented amateur photographer named Earl Brooks.

Norsigian and his attorney's Beverley Hills firm, PRS Media Partners, also a defendant in the case brought by the Adams Trust, sought dismissal in September. The trust filed its opposition declaration last week, along with 47 pages of exhibits.

The exhibits lay the groundwork for the trust's case with articles from the Bay Citizen and news stories from an Oakland television station chronicling the disputed negatives, which Norsigian says he found at a Fresno garage sale 10 years ago. In one article, headlined "Ansel Adams or Uncle Earl?" a Bay Area woman claims the negatives were actually taken by her uncle Earl Brooks.

Though the trust says in its opposition brief that "the 'authentication' of the negatives is not relevant, should defendants raise it, there are several third party witnesses with knowledge regarding the 'authenticity' of the negatives who reside in the Northern District," where the case was filed.

Among the experts is handwriting analyst Marcel Matley, San Francisco gallery owner and Adams specialist Scott Nichols, and Marion Walton, who owns prints created by Earl Brooks.

The trust claims Nichols examined the prints and determined that three of the four prints in Walton's possession "are either virtually identical or strikingly similar to the defendants' negatives."

A hearing on Norsigian's motion to dismiss is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Former Ansel Adams assistant and biographer Mary Street Alinder may be called to testify about her interactions with Norsigian and his attorney Arnold Peter, particularly Norsigian's alleged offer of "twenty-five percent of any earnings if she would help him authenticate the negatives."

The Adams Trust is represented by Jennifer Barry with Latham & Watkins of Los Angeles.

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