Meet the lawyer who guards the door at the Oscars

Wed Mar 3, 2010 2:12am EST
 
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By Matthew Belloni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Attention Academy Award winners: David Quinto will sue you if you sell your Oscar. He'll sue you if you try to sell someone else's Oscar, or if you make a fake Oscar, or even if you call yourself an Oscar winner.

A partner at L.A.'s Quinn Emanuel, Quinto (along with Academy general counsel John Quinn) aggressively protects the Academy's copyrights and trademarks worldwide. And on Sunday night he'll be guarding the door the Kodak Theater. Beware.

WHAT'S THE STRANGEST THING YOU'VE EVER SEEN SOMEONE DO TO THE OSCAR STATUETTE?

There are so many! Somebody was selling Oscars with, uh, rather large phalluses. And there was a real Oscar recovered in a drug bust, which was a little unusual.

THE ACADEMY HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING ULTRA-AGGRESSIVE IN PURSUING INFRINGERS. WHY?

Well, 75% of the Academy's income comes from the awards ceremony. It's important that people remain interested so the Academy wants to prevent anything that would damage or tarnish the reputation of the Oscar. It wants to maintain the Oscar as an image of excellence in motion picture making. I frequently get asked why the Academy is aggressive in trying to make sure the Oscars don't get sold. The Oscar should remain a symbol of achievement in motion picture making and it should demonstrate exclusivity. If there's a perception that anyone with money can buy one, then people may start to lose interest in it.

BUT SOMETIMES YOU GO AFTER PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY'RE BUYING MEMORABILIA LEGITIMATELY ON EBAY AND SUDDENLY THEY GET A NASTY LETTER FROM YOU. ARE YOUR RESOURCES UNLIMITED FOR THIS KIND OF ENFORCEMENT OR ARE THERE THINGS YOU DON'T TOUCH?

The Academy is a nonprofit. It clearly has a limited budget. So the Academy wants to be careful picking and choosing its fights. A lot of what I do involves bluffing and persuasion. And a lot involves education. We believe that many people infringe because they've seen somebody else infringing and they have assumed that the Oscar is somehow part of a national patrimony and in the public domain. So we want to educate people that it's not. Therefore when we find a company that has sold fake Oscars, we frequently write to the customers or ask them to write to the customers to inform them about the Academy's rights. We educate people that it is a copyrighted, trademarked property of the Academy and is not available for public use.   Continued...

 
<p>Oscar statuettes are displayed at the "Meet the Oscars" exhibit in New York February 25, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>