'Gone In 60 Seconds' Car Is Back with 9th Circuit Win

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'Gone In 60 Seconds' Car Is Back with 9th Circuit Win

Mon Nov 17, 2008 @ 12:44AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

EleanorIt's not every day that an appeals court makes the point that an automobile can be seen like a "comic book character" and is deserving of similar copyright and trademark protection.

But on last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the "Eleanor," a customized yellow 1971 Fastback Ford Mustang seen in the original 1974 film "Gone in 60 Seconds," is such a vehicle. The decision vacated summary judgments made by lower courts and sent a case involving copyright and trademark claims over "Eleanor" back down for further consideration.

The plaintiff is Denice Halicki, the widow of H.B. "Toby" Halicki, who directed, produced, acted in, and marketed the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" film. Since then, the original "Eleanor" has been a hit at car shows and has been turned into toy cars and featured on baseball caps. Halicki also optioned rights to the film to Hollywood Pictures, a division of Disney, in 1995, and five years later, the studio produced a remake that starred Nicolas Cage.

That film, however, featured a 1967 Shelby GT-500, a variant of the Ford Mustang developed by Carroll Shelby. In the remake, the car was also called "Eleanor," and soon Shelby exploited her creation, licensing Unique Motorcars to produce reproductions.

That's when Halicki sued Shelby and others, arguing that in her contract with Hollywood Pictures, she expressly reserved her rights over Eleanor.

The district court didn't seem to think much of this claim, but the 9th Circuit has more respect for the sanctity of cars that play the role of "Leading Lady." Here's the decision.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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