Tony dispute heads to arbitration

Cohen, Bentwood TV claim ownership of b'cast rights

NEW YORK — Alexander H. Cohen’s two-pronged Tony Awards attack on the League of American Theaters and Producers and the American Theater Wing has connected with its first blow.

New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn has ordered that an arbitration demand initiated by the legit producer against the league go forward.

Cohen and Bentwood Television, which produced the Tony Awards telecasts from 1967 to 1986, initiated the action on Feb. 13, claiming that they are the exclusive owners of the rights to those broadcasts. They further allege that over the last six years, the league has unjustifiably interfered with the licensing of the rights and the tapes.

Cahn has denied the league’s petition to the New York Supreme Court to block the action. He wrote, “Although the league suggests that the various agreements terminated in 1986, it does not dispute the respondents have an ongoing and continuous right to exploit the programs subject to the terms of the agreements.”

Cohen and Bentwood “have identified at least two instances, both within the last six years, in which the league has allegedly interfered with their efforts to license the programs or sell their rights under the agreements.”

Cahn acknowledged that the two parties engaged in similar disputes in 1990 and 1991.

On Monday, lawyers for Cohen received notice that the league is appealing Cahn’s order.

Last month, Cohen filed a petition against the wing for control of the Tony Awards name and logo. The producer alleges that the wing, which owns the rights to the Tony Awards name, has never used the actual service mark it registered, thereby voiding the wing’s copyright.

Neither party involved in the case would comment.

(Claude Brodesser contributed to this report.)