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Weinstein Co. Bites Back Over ‘Butler’ Ruling

TWC threatens anti-trust suit

The Weinstein Company has put the MPAA and Warner Bros. on alert that they plan to fight to keep naming rights to upcoming civil rights pic “The Butler.”

TWC attorney David Boies has fired off letters to both orgs warning that the company plans to challenge the MPAA’s ruling that it may not use the title on its upcoming drama, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Sources close to TWC say it plans to file a temporary restraining order on Friday and is preparing to file an appeal.

WB won a ruling on Tuesday that required TWC to select another title. The MPAA also imposed a fine on TWC for violating Warner Bros.’ rights to the name, which it claimed it holds due to its ownership of a 1916 comedy short with the same title.

The ruling also requires TWC to remove the word “Butler” from its marketing, promotional and other material related to the film. TWC also objects to proposed fines of $25,000 per day for noncompliance with the order.

“The Warner Bros. 1916 short has not been displayed or exhibited for almost a century and there is no plausible basis to contend that there is any chance of confusion between the two productions,” Boies states in the letter to the MPAA.

The arbitration was conducted Tuesday through MPAA’s Title Registration Bureau, which has long been used by the industry to regulate use of titles.

Based on the true story of Eugene Allen, “The Butler” is about the African-American servant who worked in the White House during eight presidencies. TWC has set the film for an Aug. 16 release in the U.S.

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