FROM out of the night comes a blazing war over ZORRO, the masked swashbuckling hero who’s captivated generations of fans.
From the 1919 short story by Johnston McCulley “The Curse of Capistrano” through various film and TV incarnations from Douglas Fairbanks to Tyrone Power to Disney’s TV series with Guy Williams to his most recent incarnation by Antonio Banderas, Zorro has always fought for justice. Most notably with his famous swish-swish-swish of a “Z” carved on evildoers.
But now, the masked man himself is under fire in a licentious legal war.
Courthouse News reported that the author of a "Zorro" musical claims in court that the character is in the public domain, but Zorro Productions and others have threatened his stage play by fraudulently claiming a trademark for The Big Z.
Now, the musical’s author Robert W. Cabell is suing Zorro Productions, John Gertz and Stage Entertainment Licensed Productions, in Federal Court.
"Mr. Cabell is the author of the 1996 musical 'Z – The Musical of Zorro,' based upon the 1919 story authored by Johnston McCulley and the 1920 film produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.," the complaint states.
In the filing, Cabell attests that the 1919 story that appeared in “All Story Weekly” "The Curse of Capistrano," was "the first Zorro story."
Capturing the imagination of the public McCulley penned 60 more Zorro stories that featured Don Diego de la Vega as the masked crusader during the time of old California under Spanish rule.
The lawsuit says the defendants have fraudulently obtained federal trademark registrations for various 'Zorro' marks and claim he owns the rights to the character even though both “registrations to impermissibly extend intellectual property protection over material for which all copyrights have expired.
A similar legal battle was filed recently dealing with rights to the Sherlock Holmes character.
Writers who wanted to publish an anthology of all- new Holmes stories sued the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate, claiming the celebrated sleuth is in the public domain – despite a new slew of TV shows and movies starring Robert Downey, Jr., Benedict Cumberpatch and Johnny Lee Miller.