Judge Upholds Claims of Seattle Artist Suing Pet Toy Company for Illegal Use of Angry Birds Trademark

SEATTLE – A U.S. District Court judge has upheld seven of eight claims in a lawsuit filed by a Seattle artist against Hartz Mountain Corporation – one of the nation’s largest producers of pet-related products – according to attorneys at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky. The lawsuit claims Hartz illegally sold an Angry Birds pet toy line based on the video game by Rovio Entertainment Ltd, even though Hartz had an agreement with Seattle artist, Juli Adams, to sell her pet products called Angry Birds. The suit alleges that Hartz wrongfully used the Angry Birds trademark that Ms. Adams owned and deprived her of millions of dollars of royalties on sales of Angry Birds pet toys.

The artist’s lawsuit states that Hartz was licensed to sell Ms. Adams’ Angry Birds pet toys in return for a royalty, but it never purchased the intellectual property, including the Angry Birds trademark for pet toys created by Adams. When the Angry Birds video game became popular, Hartz quit selling Ms. Adams’ pet toy line and entered into a separate agreement with Rovio, makers of the Angry Birds video game franchise.

The order issued yesterday by Judge Robert S. Lasnik denied Hartz’s motion to dismiss the case, upholding claims that Hartz violated its contract with Adams, was unjustly enriched, and wrongfully used her trademark.

“We believe that when Hartz dumped Ms. Adams’ toy line and struck a lucrative deal with Rovio, it knew exactly what it was doing – intentionally cutting Juli Adams out of the picture to profit on the ‘Angry Birds’ name,” said Anthony Shapiro, partner at Hagens Berman and one of the attorneys representing Ms. Adams.

Years before the world knew Angry Birds, the video game, Hartz asked Adams to create a pet toy line, according to the complaint. She designed a pet toy line she dubbed “Angry Birds,” plush toys for cats.

Hartz entered into an exclusive agreement with Adams in November 2006 which stated that there was to be “no transfer of ownership” of the Angry Birds intellectual property from Adams to Hartz. The complaint states that the agreement gave the toy company only limited licensing rights and did not give Hartz the right to license Adams’ intellectual property to third parties for its own profit.

According to the order, the pet toy maker tried to dismiss claims, stating that it was the rightful owner of the trademarked “Angry Birds” term, but Judge Lasnik stated that Adams has shown sufficient facts that “Angry Birds” was her intellectual property and that the name was a part of what Adams licensed – but never sold – to Hartz.

Adams said that she believed the agreement with Hartz would help launch her career as an artist. Adams began her career in the Puget Sound area and tirelessly traveled to promote and sell her art.

“When I was flown to meet with associates at Hartz, that’s when it started to feel real. They told me, ‘This is going to change your life,’” she said. “It got me really excited. I was convinced it would turn things around for me.”

The suit states that Hartz’s last royalty payment to Adams was in 2011 for $40.66.

After the launch of the popular Angry Birds video game in December 2009, Hartz used Adams’ intellectual property and the trademarked “Angry Birds” name to leverage a deal with video game creator, Rovio, the suit states. The complaint adds that Hartz violated the agreement without Adams’ knowledge and permission, and without ownership of her intellectual property or trademark.

Adams’ toy line was then dumped by Hartz, according to the complaint, while Hartz sold pet toys under the same Angry Birds name, but based on the characters in the Rovio video game. Hartz made this move while the agreement between Hartz and Ms. Adams was still in effect. According to Adams, Hartz told her that she could no longer use the name “Angry Birds” due to a conflict.

After the launching of the Angry Birds video game, Rovio sought trademarks in a variety of product arenas, including children’s toys, clothing and cell phone accessories. However, the suit alleges that Rovio’s trademarks specifically excluded toys for pets, because that trademark is and was registered to Hartz in 2007, under the terms of its agreement with Adams.

Additional information about the suit is available at www.hbsslaw.com/cases/angry-birds.

# # #

About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List seven times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

About Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C.
Based in Philadelphia, PA, Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky is a law firm that focuses on plaintiffs’ personal injury and class action matters. The attorneys at Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky have achieved some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the history of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and have served as lead or co-lead counsel in a variety of consumer class actions filed around the country. More about the firm can be found at www.smbb.com.

Ashley Klann

Hagens Berman purchases advertisements on search engines, social media sites and other websites. Transmission of the information contained or available through this website is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. If you seek legal advice or representation by Hagens Berman, you must first enter a formal agreement. All information contained in any transmission is confidential and Hagens Berman agrees to protect information against unauthorized use, publication or disclosure. This site is regulated by the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct.