Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer are set to head to court next month to defend themselves against accusations that they stole the idea for their Netflix series from someone who allegedly pitched a project at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court denied summary judgment to the Duffer brothers in a lawsuit brought by Charlie Kessler.
“Triable issues of fact remain to be determined concerning what plaintiff said, what he meant to convey by his conversation and how the defendants responded before it can be definitively concluded whether or not an implied in fact contract was formed,” Judge Michael Stern wrote Wednesday.
“Defendants submit that their creation was independent and occurred prior to plaintiff’s alleged disclosure of his idea to them,” the judge added. “They each submit declarations relying upon and substantiating the credibility of each other’s testimony. However, there is little independent verifying evidence of the originality of their idea.”
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Kessler brought forward the lawsuit against the Duffer brothers after claiming that he pitched a script called The Montauk Project that was set in New York and focused on supernatural urban legends.
Kessler described his film as a “science-fiction story set in the town of Montauk, N.Y., the location of various urban legends and paranormal and conspiracy theories” with the primary location of the story as an “abandoned military base.”
“At this party, the script, ideas, story and film referred to were discussed and presented to (Matt and Ross),” he alleged.
Kessler’s lawyer Michael Kernan argued that the 2014 pitch at the party created an implied-in-fact contract.
“After the massive success of Stranger Things … defendants have made huge sums of money by producing the series based on plaintiff’s concepts,” Kernan wrote.
Kessler wants to be credited as Stranger Things‘ third creator and receive a third of the show’s earnings.
The Duffer brothers claim that they have been working on Stranger Things since 2010.
Their lawyer states that a “casual conversation is the sole basis for the alleged implied contract at issue in this lawsuit and for Kessler’s meritless theory that the Duffers used his ideas to create Stranger Things.”
The lawsuit goes to court next month after the brothers were denied summary judgement.
The Duffer brothers are now trying to stop the trial, which could lead to the publication of confidential information about future episodes. They state that it could damage the show’s commercial efforts and their own strength in future financial negotiations.
Netflix offers the Duffer brothers its “full support” and says that the case has “no merit.”
“The Duffer brothers have our full support,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “This case has no merit, which we look forward to being confirmed by a full hearing of the facts in court.”
After the judge denied the Duffer brothers’ motion for summary judgment, Kessler’s lawyer released a statement.
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“Now that the judge has ruled and denied their motion for summary judgment, we can now dispense with the nonsense promoted by the Duffers and Netflix that this lawsuit has no merit and that they had ‘proof’ that they created the show. If the lawsuit had no merit, or if they actually had the ‘proof’ they created it, then their summary judgment would have won. They lost. These motions are very hard to fight and winning this motion shows Mr. Kessler has a good case. We look forward to proving Mr. Kessler’s case at trial,” Kernan said.
Stranger Things Season 3 will be released on Netflix on July 4.
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