Trade secret war over Hollywood set locations

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Trade secret war over Hollywood set locations

Tue Jun 29, 2010 @ 12:40PM PST

Manhattan-film-set1 By Eriq Gardner

A lot of people would love to see their home used as the set location for a big Hollywood movie. Sure, it's a nuisance, but property owners get a great story to tell their grandkids and, with a little luck, the property value might go up.

What are the best properties to use as a set location? Well, that's allegedly a trade secret and the subject of a new war between two companies in Hollywood.
Universal Locations is in the business of providing film locations for studios such as Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and most of the big television networks.

In a new lawsuit, the company claims its secrets were stolen when two former employees took confidential information to competitor, Site to Site Locations.

What kind of secrets?

Universal says it has scouted, marketed and listed over 5,000 properties for use in television and the movie industry, generating more than $50 million in location rentals. In the course of business, Universal has developed a database of information including customers' names, addresses, pricing, property profiles and contact information.

It's a pretty good business. Universal represents property owners, oversees contractual issues and insurance liability, and collects and disperses rental payments.

The company is now targeting Diane Miller and Josephine Williamson, who allegedly worked for Universal for about two decades before joining Site to Site.

Universal says it has an employee agreement that stipulates that in the event these individuals become a competitor, Universal is entitled to a 33% commission on any properties located in its database. Moreover, Universal claims that while still employed by Universal, each of them misappropriated its confidential information by breaking into its computer system.

Universal is seeking unspecified monetary damages and an enjoinment on certain defendant activities.

Just for fun, here's a map of Los Angeles told through locations of famous films. An interactive map is available at Filmmaps:

Picture 1

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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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