Contender Partners sue TV Azteca

Mexican series allegedly infringed copyright

DreamWorks TV and Mark Burnett are climbing into the ring with Mexico’s TV Azteca in a trademark violation lawsuit over boxing reality show “Contender.”

Contender Partners, the pair’s joint venture, is taking issue with TV Azteca’s “Retador Azteca” (Aztec Challenger), which aired on Azteca America Stateside.

“It … violates the trademarks of the ‘Contender,’ “ said John Gatti, the lawyer representing Contender Partners. “Previously, there was a cease and desist that went ignored by TV Azteca and that’s why we’re left where we are.”

Azteca America CEO Adrian Steckel denies copyright infringement. “We presented ‘Retador’ at our upfront last year in New York on May 14 to some 900 buyers, agents and members of the press and networks,” he said.

Gatti said L.A.-based Contender Partners took the idea to TV Azteca last year in the hopes of producing a Spanish-language version of the show.

“They took our plan to launch such a series in Spanish language. … We were going forward with them, and they obviously decided to cut us out and produce the show on their own,” Gatti said.

Steckel said the decision to license “Retador,” in conjunction with U.S.-based Mapitv Entertainment Group, happened before any contact occurred between Burnett’s group and TV Azteca.

He also said the idea for the show was Mapitv’s, a shingle he says has a long history of boxing-based productions, and that the two worked on the clip shown at the upfront well before May and thus well before any meeting with Contender Partners.

“When we licensed this, we weren’t thinking of ‘Contender’ at all,” he said.

“The Contender,” which runs on ESPN, pits 16 professional boxers against one another with challenges and weekly elimination rounds. Five-time world champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard hosts the show that awards the last man standing a $1 million prize.

“Retador Azteca” recruits eight Mexican boxers and eight U.S. boxers to compete for a $50,000 grand prize; former light-flyweight world champion Jorge “Travieso” Arce hosts this show.

According to Steckel, the show began production in November and went on the air Jan. 20.

Steckel stressed the pro-Mexican aspect of “Retador.”

“Our whole mission is to give pride to the Mexican population (in the U.S.). The ‘Retador Azteca’ is really focused on Mexico and the U.S. It’s part of our mission statement.”

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