(CN) – The widow of the director of the original “Gone in 60 Seconds” movie owns rights to the “Eleanor” car in the 1974 film and the 2000 Hollywood Pictures remake, a federal appeals court in California ruled.
Denice Halicki, widow of H.B. “Toby” Halicki, who directed, produced, acted in and marketed the original “Gone in 60 Seconds,” sued for trademark infringement after Carroll Shelby, the designer of the Eleanor car in the remake, registered the Eleanor trademark for cars and car parts, and licensed the rights to custom car maker Unique Motorcars.
The 9th Circuit determined that Halicki had standing to sue, due to her ownership of the copyright to Eleanor, a 1971 Fastback Ford Mustang in the 1974 film, which she holds specifically for toy cars, kits and baseball caps.
The three-judge panel found that the district court failed to consider a declaration by Halicki and a 1995 agreement with Hollywood Pictures that made it clear that Halicki would retain rights to Eleanor in the remake, which Halicki called a “non-negotiable deal point.”
Halicki never transferred her rights to the remake Eleanor, the court ruled, pointing to contract wording that gives Halicki rights to Eleanor “‘from the Original Gone in 60 Seconds.'”
The court vacated judgment against Halicki and denied the defendants’ request for attorney fees, because the plaintiff’s claims were not frivolous and unreasonable. The panel remanded the case to decide whether the Eleanor character is distinctive enough for copyright protection.