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'Better Call Saul' wins real-life Liberty Tax trademark lawsuit

Actor Bob Odenkirk in the season 4 finale of "Better Call Saul," where his titular character, after getting his law license reinstated, legally becomes Saul Goodman. (Screen shot from that episode's final scene)

It's all good, man, for AMC Networks and Sony Pictures in their legal fight with Liberty Tax

In August 2022, Liberty Tax Service sued Sony Pictures, the producer of "Better Call Saul," and AMC Networks, which broadcast the "Breaking Bad" prequel, for trade dress and trademark infringement.

But apparently, attorneys for Sony and AMC were up to (OK, probably better than) Saul Goodman standards. They persuaded the court that the show's scripts and props did not stretch trademark law beyond the breaking [bad] point.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Sept. 25 granted AMC's and Sony's motion to dismiss.

Art did not imitate real tax life: Liberty Tax Service contended that one of the critically acclaimed show's storylines was an "intentional misuse" and "rip off" of its image.

The tax company's concern was the fictional "Sweet Liberty Tax Services," as well as the inflatable Statue of Liberty outside its New Mexico desert location.

A scene from "Better Call Saul" that was among images included in the trademark lawsuit against the show. (Image courtesy AMC Networks and Sony Pictures)

Liberty Tax also alleged that the program's fictional tax service, which was a tax fraud front operated by a convicted embezzler, resulted in "dilution, defamation, disparagement, and injurious falsehoods" to the real tax service's reputation.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe disagreed.

He held that Liberty Tax failed to adequately show that a fictional tax service depicted in "Better Call Saul" infringed upon the company's trademarks and trade dress.

Among the judge's points was that the television show's fraudulent tax preparation business' name and its accompanying "gaudy symbols of Americana" were "clearly ironic and closely related to Craig Kettleman's [the fictional company owner's] role in the series."

Gardephe also found no indication that use of the trade dress was commercially motivated, or intended to exploit any public value held by the real tax service.

Additional court details: The coverage of this meeting of tax life and legal drama art earns this weekend's Saturday Shout Outs.

Enjoy these stories about the original suit's filing, and it's conclusion.

I've also got give a shout out to Joe Kristan, CPA and Eide Bailly LLP partner, whose item in the company's blog on Sept. 26 tipped me to the ruling.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend you find "Breaking Bad," where Saul first appeared, and "Better Call Saul" and watch all the episodes. I swear, under oath, that both series were top-notch.

You also might find these blog items, all of which make some reference to "Breaking Bad" or "Better Call Saul," of interest:



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