Production Company Accuses Hallmark Channels of Stealing "The Wilderness Family."

MEDFORD, June 5, 2009 -- Motion picture production, licensing and distribution company Pacific International Enterprises, Inc. accused the Hallmark Channel of stealing the Wilderness Family concept and trademark in a lawsuit filed today.

The lawsuit names the owners of the Hallmark Channels, Crown Media Holdings, Inc., as a defendant along with Nevada film companies Larry Levinson Productions, Inc., LG Films, LLC, and Greystoke Entertainment, Inc. in addition to screen writer Alex Greenfield.

Crown Media Holdings, Inc. ("Crown") primarily distributes motion pictures through its cable systems but also develops and produces original material in addition to acquiring the rights to motion pictures.

The Adventures of the Wilderness Family (aka The Wilderness Family) is a 1975 family movie that stars Robert Logan, George Buck Flower and Susan Damante-Shaw. The movie was followed by two Wilderness Family sequels in 1978 and 1979 entitled "The Further Adventures of the Wilderness Family" and "Mountain Family Robinson,".

PIE claims it acquired ownership of "The Wilderness Family Series" which "presents a typical family that moves from its comfortable home and neighborhood surroundings into an unknown and uncomfortable wilderness world requiring the development of survivorship skills, thereby contributing to the development of new intrapersonal and intra-family introspection, awareness and growth."

The original film's plot is summarized by PIE as follows: "The Wilderness Family
Series deals with a family of four, father, mother, son, and daughter, plus their faithful dog, who leave the hectic life of the big city to seek a life of simple family values in the wilderness from land inherited from their uncle. They reconstruct a dilapidated, old cabin with an outhouse that comes with the property, learn how to raise chickens and milk goats, hunt and fish for food, and overcome many adversities encountered in the wild. They escape bear, wolf and mountain lion attacks, survive blizzards and avalanches, and negotiate river rapids on a hand-built raft. The family befriends a bear and two bear cubs. The family encounters its greatest challenge in the bureaucracy of the U.S. Forest Service. The main characters are Skip (the Dad), Pat (the Mom), Jenny (the sickly daughter), Toby (the son), and their new neighbor a grissly, old mountain-man named Boomer. As a result of the wilderness displacement, the family, and each of its members, learn about themselves, their strengths, weaknesses and character, and grow as people and as a family."

According to the complaint, Crown requested copies of the original films for review from Pacific International Enterprises, Inc. ("PIE") in May, 2000. After reviewing the firms, Crown informed PIE that is was not interested in acquiring any rights in the films by letters dated June 27 and June 30.

In November 2008, the Hallmark Channel announced it just "wrapped" production on a film entitled "The Wilderness Family" starring Peter Strauss, Jonathan Silverman , DeDee Pfeiffer , Linsey Godfrey, and Nolan Gerard Funk. The same press release stated "The Wilderness Family" is a Hallmark Channel presentation of an LG Films Production in association with Larry Levinson Productions. Larry Levinson was credited as the executive producer. The movie is produced by Lincoln Lageson and Mary Church, and directed by Bradford May from a script written by Alex Greenfield.

The Hallmark Channels promoted the film and issued a press release describing the film as follows: "The Wilderness Family" is the story of the Vickerys, who on the surface appear to be the perfect all-American family: Jack (Silvennan) is a star at his ad agency and is looking forward to making partner; Emily (Pfeiffer) is an up-and-coming realtor; Derek (Funk) is a senior in high school and star soccer player; and, Charlotte (Godfrey) is a do-gooder, vegetarian cheerleader. Underneath it all, however, the family is separated by modem-day gadgets and hectic schedules. When Jack's Uncle George dies and leaves the family his country ranch in the mountains, Jack takes a look at his family and realizes they could all use some time away together. When the Vickerys arrive, some ofthem are quick to throw in the towel on the aged cabin with its outdated touches, including an outhouse. But, when the family meets their new neighbor, Wild Bill Cohen (Strauss), they are forced to work together to help him round-up a herd of grazing horses and, in the process, realize that as a family they can accomplish anything."

PIE argues that the similarities between the films is so striking as to constitute evidence of unlawful copying.

The copyrights in the original three films were federally registered, as such the owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform and display the films. Copyrights do not protects ideas, only the creative expression of ideas. In addition to a claim of trademark infringement, the pleading also accuses the defendants of unfair competition.

Titles of creative works are not entitled to copyright protection, but can be protected as trademarks if the consuming public associates the mark as an identifier of the source for goods or services.

The pleading filed by PIE does not contain a claim of trademark infringement per se, but it does contain language to the effect the defendants' film is of inferior quality and will damage and dilute the goodwill and reputation of the PIE and of the Wilderness Family films which rings of a trademark claim.

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