'We've parted as friends,' Weinberg sez

MONTREAL — Cinar Corp. of Montreal announced Tuesday that a lawsuit filed last year by the Jim Henson Co. regarding Cinar-produced live-action puppet series “Wimzie’s House” has been settled out of court.

In the suit, the L.A.-based Jim Henson Co. alleged that the puppets featured on “Wimzie’s House” and as show-related merchandise violated copyright and trademark rights on Henson-created puppets.

No financial details of the settlement were revealed, but Cinar and its merchandise licensees, Eden and Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co., continue to deny any wrongdoing or liability for infringement. The lawsuit alleging unfair competition and copyright infringement was originally filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in February 1999 (Daily Variety, Feb. 12). The settlement, the terms of which are confidential, provides for the continued broadcast of “Wimzie’s House” on PBS and for the selling of “Wimzie”-related merchandise. In the agreement, Cinar also recognizes the distinctive look of Jim Henson’s Muppets.

Cinar president and co-CEO Ronald Weinberg said the settlement is good news for both companies.

“We’re delighted that the matter has been settled,” said Weinberg. “Some licensees were a bit shy to come on-board with the over-hang of the lawsuit. So now that’s not going to be a problem anymore. Everyone recognizes the disruption of a lawsuit from a company that has a reputation like the Jim Henson Co. So it’s a very welcome event for us and we’ve parted as friends. It leaves open the door that we can do things together.”

Weinberg said he and Jim Henson Co. co-president Charles Rivkin have talked about teaming up on future projects.

“Wimzie’s House” is a preschool series chronicling the adventures of 5-year-old Wimzie, her family and friends. The show is produced by Cinar in association with Maryland Public Television.

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