Paramount Sues Mario Puzo Estate to Block ‘Godfather’ Sequel

Paramount Pictures Corp. (0001184D) sued Anthony Puzo, the son and executor of the estate of author Mario Puzo, to prevent the publication of a new sequel novel to “The Godfather,” saying it wasn’t authorized.

Paramount, which says it bought the copyright to Puzo’s novel in 1969, is trying “protect the integrity and reputation of The Godfather trilogy,” according to a complaint filed Feb. 17 in federal court in Manhattan.

Paramount claimed that, after Puzo’s death in 1999, the company agreed to allow Bertelsmann AG (BTG)’s Random House unit to publish a single Godfather sequel, “The Godfather Returns,” in 2004. The estate published another novel, “The Godfather’s Revenge,” in 2006 without Paramount’s approval, according to the complaint.

“Far from properly honoring the legacy of ‘The Godfather,’ the unauthorized ‘The Godfather’s Revenge’ tarnished, and in the process, also misled consumers into believing that ‘The Godfather’s Revenge’ was authorized by Paramount,” the movie studio, a unit of New York-based Viacom Inc. (VIAM), said in the complaint.

Paramount is seeking damages and an order barring the Puzo estate from publishing the third sequel novel, “The Family Corleone,” this year.

‘Sneak Attack’

Bertram Fields, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the Puzo estate, said he had repeatedly notified Paramount of the sequel, which is to be published in May. The studio didn’t protest before suing, said Fields, who called the suit “a sneak attack.”

“For Paramount to do this to Mario Puzo’s children after the tens of millions of dollars he made for the studio is outrageous,” Fields said in a telephone interview. “Paramount and its executives should be ashamed.”

Fields said the 1969 contract between Mario Puzo and Paramount didn’t give up Puzo’s right to publish sequels.

“The studio has tremendous respect and admiration for Mario Puzo,” Virginia Lam, a spokeswoman for Paramount, said in an e-mail. “We have an obligation to and will protect our copyright and trademark interests.”

Paramount claims that the Puzo estate infringed its copyright and trademarks, which the company has used in films, video games, software, clothing and prints. The trademark consists of the words The Godfather and a hand holding puppet strings. Paramount said the Puzo estate plans to use the trademarks without authorization to promote the new sequel.

The first Godfather film was released in 1972 and won Academy Awards for best picture, actor and adapted screenplay. Puzo shared credit for the screenplay. Francis Ford Coppola directed the three Godfather movies.

The case is Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Puzo, 12-CV-1268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net; Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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