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Buchwald vs. Paramount Pictures Corp case was milestone litigation argued in California Court and decided in the year 1990 (Hartman 100). In the case, Art Buchwald accused Paramount Pictures of illegally using his script idea and turning it into a film in the year 1988 (Boyle 45). Buchwald won the court case and was paid for the damages. Notably, he accepted payment from the company before any plea took place.
In the year 1982, Buchwald composed a treatment titled A Crude, Crude World. He later forwarded the material to Alain Bernheim, who worked for Paramount. The company adopted the treatment and renamed it, King, for a Day. In the year 1983, the company signed an agreement with the producer about the production of the movie (Leibman 535). In the contract, it was agreed that Bernheim was to be the director of the film. The agreement stated that he was to receive a percentage of the net profit if Buchwald’s idea became a success.
After two years of scriptwriting, the company dropped the project (Gardner 565). When the initiative failed, Buchwald took the treatment to Warner Bros Studios. In the year 1987, Paramount started working on the production of a film that had a similar storyline with Buchwald’s treatment. The movie was Coming to America. The motion picture was accredited to Eddie Murphy. When Warner Bros learned of the development, they terminated Buckland’s plan alluding to the Paramount project. When Paramount’s production was released in the year 1988, Murphy was awarded all royalties. As such, Buchwald was not remunerated or even recognized as the source of the script idea. Following this, Buchwald took legal action against the company for breaching its contract. In the contract, they had agreed that Buchwald was to be paid if his idea was to be made into a movie.
Based on the court proceedings, the court tried to analyze if the contract between Paramount and Buchwald had been breached. The court had to investigate if Coming to America, which had been accredited to Murphy, was based on the accuser’s idea.
Equally, it was not clear how much Buchwald was to be compensated for the damages. In the contract, a net profit formula had been highlighted to illustrate how he was supposed to be paid. However, the company had not made any net profit from the production.
In the year 1990, the court delivered a ruling. The law court established that the company had used Buchwald’s treatment in their project (Weinstein 68). In this regard, the court ruled that the contract had been breached. In the second part of the ruling, the court directed the accuser to follow distinct tort litigation against the corporation.
Reason for the decision
The court pointed out that Coming to America’s scriptwriter and director had access to the accuser’s treatment. The court ruled that the contract between the two parties had been breached because Paramount did not recognize or remunerate Buchwald’s after the production of the film.
In the subsequent stage of the trial, the court ruled that although the company had made millions of sales from the movie, it had not earned net profits. In the contract, the accuser was to be paid based on the net profit formula agreed by the two parties (Goldberg 524). The court ruled that the approved payment method was unconscionable. Therefore, the accuser was urged to follow distinct tort litigation against the corporation.
Boyle, Joseph. Special Education Law With Cases. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001. Print.
Gardner, Nard. “Mediation and Its Relevance to Intellectual Property Disputes”. Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 9.7 (2014): 565-574. Print.
Goldberg, Victor. “The Net Profits Puzzle”. Columbia Law Review 97.2 (1997): 524-525. Print.
Hartman, Gary. Landmark Supreme Court Cases. New York: Checkmark Books, 2007. Print.
Leibman, Jordan. “Review Essay: Fatal Subtraction: The Inside Story Of Buchwald V. Paramount. Pierce”. American Business Law Journal 31.3 (1993): 535-552. Print.
Weinstein, Mark. “Profit-Sharing Contracts In Hollywood: Evolution And Analysis”. The Journal of Legal Studies 27.1 (1998): 67-68. Print.