A Pasadena federal appeals panel Monday revived a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright against Guillermo del Toro over elements of the director’s multiple Oscar-winning fantasy “The Shape of Water.”
In its written memorandum, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a Los Angeles federal judge erred when he dismissed the suit two years ago.
The federal appellate panel found that “additional evidence, including expert testimony,” is needed to decide the extent of any similarities between the film and Paul Zindel’s play “Let Me Hear You Whisper,” which was adapted into made-for-TV movies in 1969 and 1990.
David Zindel, son of the late playwright, alleged in his February 2018 complaint that Del Toro’s film “brazenly copies” the story, characters and themes from his father’s play.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson tossed the suit in July 2018 with prejudice — meaning permanently — and wrote that del Toro and Fox Searchlight are entitled to recover the costs of defending against the claim.
In a statement issued when the lawsuit was filed, Fox Searchlight denied that the film was based on Zindel’s play, calling the infringement allegations “baseless, wholly without merit.”
The suit came less than two weeks before the 2018 Oscars, where “The Shape of Water” was nominated for a leading 13 awards, including best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best supporting actor and best supporting actress. It won four, including best picture and best director for del Toro.
The appeals court reversed Anderson’s ruling and sent it back to the lower court for a possible trial.