LOS ANGELES (CN) – The television company best known for producing the “I Love Lucy” series is suing CBS over the company’s use of an identical image and name for Desilu, a name coined by the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and alleged interference of creative-development dealings.
The federal complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles by Desilu Productions centers on a dispute over whether CBS Studios possesses common-law trademark rights to use the Desilu name and images rights.
Represented by John Begakis, Desilu says CBS has been using a Desilu mark for years, claiming it was transferred the use rights after Desilu was acquired by Paramount Pictures, which allegedly transferred the rights to CBS.
Desilu is concerned “confusion” in “interstate markets” over the competing trademarks hindered its commercial potential and resulted in loss of property and money.
It also alleges CBS directly interfered with business dealings Desilu made with the family of Ball and Arnaz over creative development at the company.
Desilu Productions was formed by stars Ball and Arnaz, best known for their performances in the television series “I Love Lucy.” The name Desilu was coined by Arnaz and Ball “many years” before they became “silver screen stars,” according to the complaint.
In 1967, Desilu was acquired by Gulf & Western Industries, the parent company of Paramount Pictures. Soon after, Desilu was dissolved and operated as Paramount Television.
The complaint alleges between 1997 and 2001, Paramount filed applications for federal trademark registration of 16 trademarks bearing the word Desilu. Every application was filed on an “intent-to-use basis,” according to the complaint, before being “abandoned before being used in interstate commerce.”
Paramount then transferred the value of Desilu stock to CBS, according to the complaint, and shared the rights to some works in the Desilu Productions’ television series library.
Desilu, however, claimed rights to its productions were never transferred while CBS claimed they had indeed been shared, including “rights in every trademark related to ‘I Love Lucy.’”
Desilu’s founder Charles Hensley decided to relaunch Desilu in 2013 as a group of new media technology-focused companies. The trademark application he filed in Octobert 2016 for registration of the word Desilu was unopposed by CBS.
Hensley’s trademark registration of Desilu was approved in Jan. 2018.
In 2018, Desilu Productions initiated creative-development meetings with Lucy Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and her family. The Arnaz family was “excited about the Desilu resurrection and potential to regain prominence,” according to the complaint.
At that point, according to the complaint, CBS disrupted “the full and complete performance” of the development meetings and “essentially forcing her to cease working on any projects the Arnaz family was developing with Desilu.”
Begakis said CBS’ “wrongful activities” have caused Desilu “irreparable injury.”
Desilu is asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that CBS does not hold rights to “Desilu.” The complaint said Desilu is “entitled” to profits CBS earned as a result of commercial activities while it wrongfully held the trademark.
The amount that CBS may owe to Desilu is “uncertain, not readily ascertained by a simple calculation,” the complaint said.
Desilu is also seeking an “accounting … of all books and records pertaining to CBS’ unauthorized use of a common law mark identical” to that held by the company.