Twilight Saga: The Documentary Wars

The war of the Twilight documentary films is on, and producers who shop their film concepts around to distributors may be thinking twice about what more they can do to protect their hatchling ideas. It has been reported that Summit Entertainment LLC has filed a complaint against Topics Entertainment, Inc. in the U.S. District Court (California) over Topics’ documentary film: “Forks: Bitten by Twilight.” Summit is the producer and distributor of the Twilight series of films (Twilight, and The Twilight Saga: New Moon), based on the Twilight series of books by author Stephanie Meyer. Summit is also the exclusive licensee of the documentary film “Twilight in Forks: The Saga of the Real Town,” produced by Westend Entertainment, LLC dba Hecklesville Media, LLC, and which Summit refers to as an authorized documentary. The Summit/Hecklesville documentary is about Forks, Washington and other locales in the Pacific Northwest that are featured in the Twilight films. It explores the relationship between the locales and the films, and its cover features an image of moonlit trees. The Topics documentary film also appears to be about Forks, Washington, also has a cover featuring an image of moonlit trees, and a quotation attributed to author Stephanie Meyer. Summit claims the quotation was used on the Topics DVD cover without Ms. Meyer’s permission.

According to the complaint, the Summit/Hecklesville documentary, and the Twilight: New Moon DVD, are set for release on March 20, 2010. Summit alleges that Topics is already selling its unauthorized documentary on DVD to U.S. retailers, for a public release date of March 16, 2010. Summit claims that Topics rushed its documentary release date to coincide with Summit’s release date. Notable claims in Summit’s complaint include:

– Topics only decided to film its documentary after meeting with Hecklesville, discussing in detail the contents of Hecklesville’s proposed documentary, viewing Hecklesville’s documentary one sheet summary and mockup cover, then not being given the right to acquire Hecklesville’s documentary.

– unauthorized use of the TWILIGHT trademark, and a cover confusingly or substantially similar to that of the authorized documentary, which has already and is likely to result in further confusion

– copyright infringement in the Twilight motion pictures (i.e. unauthorized preparation of derivative works from those motion pictures), the authorized documentary cover and/or authorized documentary, and the original (mockup) documentary cover.

The complaint alleges false designation of origin, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, copyright infringement and unfair competition. Summit has demanded a trial by jury.

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