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'Famous Monsters' trademark goes to Phil Kim

Fri Mar 27, 2009

A long-simmering trademark dispute over who owns Famous Monsters of Filmland ended on Wednesday when a federal court in California issued a summary judgment against Ray Ferry, who had lost the trademark during a bankruptcy filing. The mark was purchased for $25,000 by Phil Kim who has been trying to resurrect the brand, beginning with an FM website last May.

Famous Monsters of Filmland, in many ways, shaped the movies we are watching today. The likes of Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Peter Jackson and George Lucas were all fans of the magazines in the days before there were even books on the subject of movie monsters and filmmaking. The magazine’s influence was celebrated in the documentary film Fan Boys.

The 12-page document from Judge Gary Allen Feess of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (who you may remember from the litigation between Fox and Warner Bros. over the Watchmen movie) read in part, "Defendants are hereby ENJOINED from operating the,, and websites, and from marketing, selling, or offering to sell any goods or services that contain, or are confusingly similar to, the 'Famous Monsters of Filmland' trademark or any derivatives thereof, including 'Famous Monsters,' until the present litigation has been fully resolved.

"Defendants failure to comply with this Order may be grounds for contempt sanctions, including possible imprisonment. In addition, Defendants are cautioned that they are not to impose upon this Court any further baseless or frivolous arguments that are directly contradicted or undermined by the evidence in the record, including those that the Court has expressly rejected in this Order.''

James Warren published the magazine beginning in 1958 and its success allowed him to launch Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella until he folded operations in the early 1980s. He then licensed FM to Ray Ferry who continued the magazine and at first had Warren’s editor, Forrest J Ackerman, on board. The two had a falling out leading to a law suit which Ackerman won although he never saw any of the $500,000 judgment.

Ferry continued to publish the magazine sporadically despite losing the trademark. When Kim obtained it, there were two competing websites and Judge Frees ordered Ferry to cease using the related URLs.

Kim said in an email on Friday morning: "This is the first step in making Ferry a bad memory. Ferry's reign of terror is over. His website will be no more. My only regret is that Forrest J Ackerman is not here to witness this. Forry may not have believed in the afterlife but I do, and I hope Forry is looking down on this and smiling...I know I am.''

"For what Ferry & Connie have cost me and how relentless they are, I have every intention of recovering my damages from them and those who are found guilty of aiding them in their illegal enterprise. This is just the beginning.''

Ferry’s aide Connie Bean told the Classic Horror Film Board, "Right now we have no comment until we read it. Also, I caution you all to realize that we will have our day in court. We don't have to react to anything until we are served with it, so that is what we will do. I am assuming according to what I do know, that we move ahead with Shock and Freaky and go from there.

"Ray and I never run with our tails between our legs and will keep going no matter what, maybe not with FM but we will keep going anyway. We have to. It's the right thing to do. All I know is that everyone will get what they paid us for at one time or another and we won't leave fans hanging.''

While Kim now controls the trademark and can continue with his plans, the copyrights to the original 1982 issues of the magazine remain in Warren’s control. Creepy and Eerie, now licensed to Dark Horse Comics, are enjoying a resurgence of interest. Harris Publishing currently owns Vampirella.

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