Zorro Rights Challenged; Playwright Calls for Public Domain Status

A playwright who authored a 2006 play based on the first-ever Zorro book (published in 1919) has filed suit against Zorro Productions, Inc.--the company that claims to own the character and all rights related to it--saying that the company has "built a licensing empire out of smoke and mirrors," reports The Hollywood Reporter. The character, who is set for a film reboot in 2014, now faces a lawsuit that alleges Zorro is in the public domain, that trademarks on the character should be canceled and that the company currently professing rights on the character and particularly those earliest stories have constructed those claims fraudulently. The suit alleges, "Defendants have fraudulently obtained federal trademark registrations for various 'Zorro' marks and falsely assert those registrations to impermissibly extend intellectual property protection over material for which all copyrights have expired. Defendants also fraudulently assert that copyrights for later-published material provide defendants with exclusive rights in the elements of the 1919 story and the 1920 film." You can read the full suit here. John Gertz, who owns Zorro Productions, has not yet commented on the suit or the THR story. Whether this could have ramifications for Dynamite Entertainment, who publish comic books based on the character, is unclear.