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Seuss, ComicMix close book on landmark copyright dispute over 'Star Trek' mashup

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Books by Dr. Seuss are displayed in a bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., March 2, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • Attorney says defendants settled because of illustrator's cancer
  • 9th Circuit found book wasn't protected by fair use doctrine
  • Court had declined to rule for Seuss on claims before trial

(Reuters) - Dr. Seuss Enterprises LP and the makers of the Dr. Seuss/"Star Trek" mashup book "Oh, the Places You'll Boldly Go!" have settled Seuss' copyright infringement claims, according to a Tuesday filing in San Diego federal court.

In an agreement filed with the court, the parties agreed that the book infringes Seuss' copyrights and permanently bars ComicMix LLC, former "Star Trek" writer David Gerrold, illustrator Ty Templeton and others from selling it, while Seuss agreed to drop any claims for damages or attorneys' fees.

ComicMix's publisher Glenn Hauman said in a statement that they settled because of Templeton's Stage 3 colorectal cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

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"After five years of litigation and with the pre-trial deadlines looming, as Ty's collaborators and friends, we refuse to put him through any additional stress that would in any way impinge on his health and recovery. To the credit of the people at Dr. Seuss Enterprises, they didn't want to put Ty through that either," Hauman said. "So we joined in a motion to end the suit the day before Ty's surgery, in order to alleviate the less serious pain in his butt."

Dan Booth of Dan Booth Law represents ComicMix.

Seuss Enterprises and its attorney Tamar Duvdevani of DLA Piper didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the mashup of "Star Trek" elements with Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" wasn't covered by the doctrine of fair use – which can protect works that use copyrighted material from infringement claims when the use is for parody, commentary or other purposes – largely because it didn't transform the original.

U.S. Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown wrote for a three-judge panel that the mashup "took the heart of Dr. Seuss' works," wasn't a parody because it simply juxtaposed Seuss' works with "Star Trek" elements and wasn't otherwise transformative.

The 9th Circuit's ruling was seen as an important precedent to clarify the limits of fair use. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision in June.

The appeals court had reversed U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino's 2019 ruling that the mashup made fair use of Seuss' work. In August, Sammartino rejected Seuss Enterprises' bid on remand for a pre-trial ruling that the book infringed its copyrights.

The case is Dr. Seuss Enterprises LP v. ComicMix LLC, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 3:16-cv-02779.

For Seuss: Tamar Duvdevani of DLA Piper

For ComicMix: Dan Booth of Dan Booth Law; and T.C. Johnston of Internet Law

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the defendants' statement came from ComicMix publisher Glenn Hauman, not attorney Dan Booth.)

Read more:

Oh, where does the Seuss-Star Trek copyright battle go next? To a jury.

'Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!' dispute won't go to SCOTUS, justices say

Dr. Seuss's estate can sue over 'Star Trek' 'mash-up'

Dr. Seuss lawsuit over Star Trek-themed parody is dismissed

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Washington-based correspondent covering court cases, trends, and other developments in intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Previous experience at Bloomberg Law, Thomson Reuters Practical Law and work as an attorney.

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