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Legal Duel Over "Zorro"

by Josh Grossberg
Aug 3, 2005, 4:25 PM PT

As if Zorro doesn't have enough to worry about while helping the people, now he's gotta contend with lawyers.

With just a couple of months to go before the studio unspools The Legend of Zorro, Sony Pictures and its TriStar Pictures division have found themselves the target of a lawsuit filed by a Hollywood film company contesting the rights to the swashbuckling swordsman.

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

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Sobrini Films, a subsidiary of producer Mark Armin's Maroda Inc., sued Sony on Tuesday, accusing the distributor of squashing the shingle's attempts to get its own Zorro film off the ground.

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Sobrini claims it alone owns the exclusive rights to the 1919 Johnston McCulley serial, The Curse of Capistrano, from which the classic Zorro character is drawn. Sony, the suit claims, controls the rights to later stories.

As a result, the company says it is free to proceed in producing its own version of the masked avenger, a futuristic tale called Zorro 2110.

According to court documents, Sobrini initiated the legal action after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Sony that asserted the studio had the exclusive rights to all film and TV productions created from the Zorro property.

Sobrini's attorney, Bruce Isaacs, said the letter was an attempt to sabotage his client from making its own Zorro flick because it can't get the requisite insurance.

"We have a Zorro script that we're really excited about, and we're planning to go forward with our movie, but Sony TriStar is under the impression that they have the exclusive rights to make Zorro movies. We think they're wrong, so we're going to the court asking them to agree with us," Isaacs told E! Online.

"So, it's really a fight over whether they have the exclusive rights to Zorro."

The lawsuit also seeks a court ruling affirming that Zorro's Mexican bandito getup--the black mask, cape, hat and sword--is in the public domain and cannot be claimed for private use under copyright or trademark laws.

A Sony rep declined to comment on the suit, pending litigation.

Meanwhile, The Legend of Zorro, the long-awaited sequel to 1998's blockbuster, The Mask of Zorro reuniting smoldering stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with director Martin Campbell, will be swinging into theaters Oct. 28--just in time for Halloween.

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