U.S. judge OKs Seattle artist's 'Angry Birds' lawsuit

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has allowed a Seattle artist’s intellectual property lawsuit to go forward over her claims she was cheated out of possibly millions of dollars from the sale of “Angry Birds” pet toys she designed, her attorney said on Tuesday.

Actress Lisa Kudrow announces that the game Angry Birds has won Best Mobile Game award at the 15th annual Webby Awards in New York June 13, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik on Monday denied a motion by pet toy maker Hartz Mountain Corp to dismiss the lawsuit. The company argued it had ownership of the “Angry Birds” trademark and that the license covered Juli Adams’ drawings or illustrations of animals.

Lasnik said Adams’ complaint plausibly suggested the moniker “Angry Birds” was part of the intellectual property licensed to Hartz.

The company said a Hartz representative asked Adams in the summer of 2006 to design a line of plush pet toys and that they reached a five-year licensing agreement in November of that year.

Adams argues that Hartz breached that agreement when it entered into a deal with mobile games maker Rovio to begin selling a line of pet toys based on characters from the Finnish company’s hugely popular “Angry Birds” video game that came out in 2009.

“When Angry Birds the video game came along they dumped Juli Adams’ line, started selling the Rovio stuff instead, and cut her out completely,” her attorney, Tom Loeser, said in an interview.

Loeser said Rovio, which has expanded the Angry Birds brand into an animated TV series, toys and clothing line, could not do the same in the lucrative pet toy industry because “Hartz had already registered that trade mark for the toys that Juli Adams designed.”

New Jersey-based Hartz said its agreement with Adams did not constitute an enforceable trademark license because “it does not even mention the trademark ANGRY BIRDS, and does not contain the necessary quality control provisions”.

“Hartz owes no duty of exclusivity to (Adams) under the Agreement,” the company wrote in its motion to dismiss in October.

Lawyers for the company did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Rovio.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Peter Cooney