Arthur Conan Doyle’s Estate sued Miramax, Penguin Random House, movie distributor Roadside Attractions, movie director William Condon and author Mitch Cullin on May 21 in Federal Court.
Cullin used copyrighted stories in his 2005 novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” then adapted it for the movie “Mr. Holmes,” scheduled for June release in England, the estate claims. The movie, to be released in the United States in July, stars Sir Ian McKellen.
The estate says it did not need to do much sleuthing to find out where Cullin got access to Conan Doyle’s final stories.
It claims that Cullin knew “the noted Sherlockian scholar and collector John Bennett Shaw,” who was a friend of his father’s, in Santa Fe, and through whom Cullin had access to Conan Doyle’s complete works.
In fact, the estate says in the lawsuit: “Cullin’s dedication of ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’ included a dedication to ‘the late John Bennett Shaw, who once left me in charge of his
library.’ It is apparent from ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’ – a story of Sherlock Holmes in
retirement – that Mr. Cullin read deeply in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, including those protected by copyright.
The final 10 stories, published between 1923 and 1927, “develop the details of Holmes’s fictional retirement and change and develop the character of Holmes himself,” according to the complaint.
The estate says Cullin took details about Holmes’ retirement to “a lonely farmhouse … on a ridge overlooking the English Channel,” from the late, copyrighted story, “Lion’s Mane.” And it claims he took details from “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier,” in which Holmes, rather than Dr. Watson, narrates a story, about Watson remarrying and moving away from Baker Street.
The lawsuit cites paragraphs it claims are taken nearly directly from the “Blanched Soldier” story.
The estate seeks an accounting and damages for copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
It is represented by Benjamin Allison with Sutin, Thayer & Browne, of Santa Fe.
Attorneys could not be reached for comment over the Memorial Day weekend.
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