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Movie Academy sues Oscarwatch Web site

Organizer of the Academy Awards accuses the site of trademark infringement, seeks injunction plus damages.

Ever the protective Oscar parent, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made good on its threat to sue

The organizer of the Academy Awards filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accusing the Web site of trademark infringement. The action seeks injunctive relief plus damages, but AMPAS' attorney said the big aim is to halt the site's use of the Oscar name.

"The Academy isn't really pursuing monetary damages," said David Quinto of the law firm Quinn Emanuel. "The Academy's interest here is putting a stop to the offensive conduct and not in trying to make a buck."

AMPAS regularly tangles over what it considers improper use of the trademarked Oscar name.

Also on Thursday, in a separate matter, Quinto filed in the same federal court a motion in a trademark infringement suit against Italian broadcaster RAI International, whose Italian-language programs distributed by U.S. satellite broadcaster EchoStar have run afoul of AMPAS guidelines with such show titles as "Wine Oscars" and "Fashion Oscars."

Whether the practice runs afoul of U.S. law remains to be seen. A judge in March refused an Academy motion for summary judgment against RAI, suggesting cultural semantical distinctions might mean that Italians view the word Oscar more generically than Americans.

Quinto responded that the shows' viewers likely include Italian-speaking Americans who are clear about the Oscar trademark. EchoStar refused to produce a list of RAI International subscribers, so AMPAS filed a motion to compel the company to do so.

In the Oscarwatch flap, AMPAS in February ordered site proprietor Sasha Stone to cease operating under her current domain registration and threatened legal action if the order went unmet. The Academy suggested in March that Stone might remedy the situation by switching to a different domain name and limiting any use of the name Oscarwatch to subdomains within the site, according to the AMPAS suit.

"(But) Stone rejected the Academy's offer, and defendant Stone continues to maintain her registration of the Oscarwatch site with a bad faith intent to profit therefrom," the suit states.

Contacted by a reporter for comment, Stone said: "I am not trying to exploit the Academy's trademark to offer competing goods and services. Rather, I am offering commentary that directly addresses the Oscars awards, a topic of great interest to the general public, thanks largely to the efforts of the Academy itself. I believe that the use of (Oscarwatch) to describe commentary about the Oscars is that of fair use."