A former FBI agent has filed a lawsuit against Saban Entertainment, claiming he conceived the idea for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers more than 20 years ago and honed the concept 10 years later.
Herbert Simmons, who says he created on paper the group of crime-fighting characters called “Star Patrol” in 1983, has enlisted the help of Sen. Robert Dole, who in turn has asked the U.S. Dept. of Justice to investigate Simmons’ claims.
$1 billion at stake
Because the lawsuit involves copyright infringement, a judgment in favor of Simmons could be worth more than $1 billion, as such an award would be based on 100% of the gross revenue of the popular property.
Saban has countersued Simmons, asserting his claims are without merit and insisting “Power Rangers” bears no similarity to “Star Patrol.” Saban has asked the court for a declaratory judgment to establish ownership of the powerful property. A Saban spokesman said the company has a policy of not commenting on litigation.
“Power Rangers” is widely considered the most successful licensed property in years, and a judgment in favor of Simmons would tap the merchandising, TV and film revenue earned by Saban. The suit – which was removed in June from New York and filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles – names Saban CEO Haim Saban, Fox Television, and Graz Entertainment principals Stephanie and Jim Graziano as defendants.
Simmons, 45, claims he developed the idea while making anti-crime presentations in the 1980s to schoolchildren in Kansas City, Kan., where he lives. He says he pitched the idea to Fox Broadcasting in 1991.
The retired agent, who worked in copyright law enforcement, published a book and copyrighted the idea for “Star Patrol” as multiethnic, teenage role models for children. Simmons says he became aware of the “Power Rangers” in 1993 when his daughter was watching a new TV program.
Motto for the Star Patrol, according to the lawsuit, was, “Be the best that you can be.” The Power Rangers’ motto is, “Be the best person that you can be.”
But the similarities don’t end there. According to the complaint, both groups metamorphose from freshly scrubbed teens to superheroes, wear colored bodysuits with futuristic accoutrements, were created by aliens and have a robot sidekick.
Simmons’ complaint alleges that his representative, TV producer Jerry Collins, shopped the idea for “Star Patrol” to bankers, education groups, TV producers and networks in an effort to get financing for a TV version.
An FBC spokesman said the studio has not yet seen a copy of the complaint but is aware of the lawsuit.
Graz did not return telephone calls seeking comment.