“It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot,” they say in the Tom Cruise-starring blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, and that’s kind of what Paramount thinks about a copyright lawsuit they’ve been slapped with over the fighter jet film.
“When the Court reviews the article and Maverick, as opposed to Plaintiffs’ irrelevant and misleading purported comparison of the works, it is clear as a matter of law that Maverick does not borrow any of the article’s protected expression,” says Paramount in a motion to dismiss response filed Friday in federal court in California.
“Plaintiffs do not have a monopoly over works about Top Gun.”
The dispute is between Paramount Pictures and the Israeli-based widow and son of the author of a 1983 article that inspired the original 1986 movie.
In a copyright suit filed earlier this summer in California federal court, Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay want unspecified but clearly big-bucks damages from the studio. They also requested an injunction to stop screenings and distribution of the May 27-released sequel, as well as any more more movies in the franchise.
Calling Top Gun: Maverick “derivative,” the Marc Toberoff- and Alex Kozinski-represented Yonays alleged that Paramount is “thumbing its nose at the statute” that allows the termination of rights after 35 years (read the court complaint here).
The studio response Friday claimed the film doesn’t borrow from the article.
Seeking unspecfied damages, the family originally claimed that the “derivative” Maverick sequel runs contrary to the termination rights that they claim they hold over the property.
“To the contrary, any similarity between these vastly different works derives from the fact that Top Gun is an actual naval training facility,” states the August 26th filing by Daniel Petrocelli and Molly N. Lens of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, representing the studio.
“These claims are entirely without merit, and we will continue to vigorously defend this lawsuit,” said a Paramount spokesperson to Deadline today in language reminiscent of their initial response to the lawsuit.
In yet another rematch between Petrocelli and plaintiff’s lawyer Marc Toveroff, along with associate Alex Kozinski, Paramount has asked the court for a hearing on Sept. 26.
Certainly, there are some high-flying stakes at play here. The long-awaited Cruise sequel to the iconic Reagan-era movie has pulled in a total of nearly $1.4 billion worldwide since its release in theaters in late May.
Petrocelli and Toveroff have battled on numerous infringement cases over the years.
In the May 1983 edition of California magazine, Ehud Yonay penned “Top Guns,” about the pilots and program “located in a second-floor cubby of offices at the east end of Hangar One at Miramar.” The piece was optioned ASAP and Yonay was cited in the credits of the first Top Gun.
The rights to the article reverted back to the Yonays in January 2020.
Read the complete filing here: MTD