Diary of a Wimpy Zombie Lawsuit

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By Todd Allen

You’ve doubtless heard of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” the comics-ish series that started out as a web feature, become a best-selling book 102973284 Diary of a Wimpy Zombie Lawsuitseries and expanded into movies.  You may not have heard of “Diary of a Zombie Kid” from Antarctic Press.  Written by Fred Perry and drawn by David Hutchison, Zombie Kid has drawn attention from the Wimpy Kid lawyers.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

But that changed on Tuesday with the filing of a trademark infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts against Antarctic Press, publishers of Diary of a Zombie Kid. Wimpy Kid, Inc., a company owned by author Jeff Kinney, charged the defendant with eight counts of “blatantly” infringing its intellectual property and diluting its trademarks by publishing, advertising, and distributing its books. In addition to punitive damages, among the remedies that Wimpy Kid seeks is the destruction of all Diary of a Zombie Kid books and any other infringing materials.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “that’s parody — nobody sues for parody.”  People do sue for parody.  They don’t always win, but if they’re sufficiently larger than who they’re suing, sometimes they get a settlement.  One suspects had this run in Mad Magazine, there would be no lawsuit.  Where this lawsuit gets a little more interesting is in110513602 Diary of a Wimpy Zombie Lawsuit the trade dress complaints:

In addition to the confusingly similar title, the jacket design of Defendant’s infringing works are substantially similar to those of Plaintiff’s series andare obviously intended to confuse the public into believing that Defendant’s books are additions to such series. Defendant is thereby illegally trading off of the substantial goodwill that has resulted from the significant success of Plaintiff’s books in the marketplace and palming off its own books as those of the Plaintiff.
So it appears this suit is as much about the Zombie books looking a little bit too much like the original Wimpy kid books, which is a problem Mad hasn’t had a lawsuit over, to the best of my knowledge.
Publisher’s Weekly has Diary of a Zombie Kid at #20 on the Amazon Comics & Graphic Novels list as this story broke.  As of this writing, Amazon has it “Temporarily Out of Stock” and down to #48.  Barnes & Noble still appears to have it in stock.

Comments

  1. Dave Hackett says:

    Really? I mean…… Really?

  2. Gianluca says:

    One thing not mentioned is that Antarctic did a sequel book “Rotton Rules” which again looks almost identical to “Rodrick Rules”. I imagine Antarctic would have just copied the whole Wimpy Kid series if they knew they could. Zombie Kid is probably their biggest seller for them and is also their FCBD book for next year.

  3. Todd Allen says:

    All I’ve got to say is Fearless Fosdick.

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    I think it’s the trade dress which caused this suit. Papercutz has “Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid” which sold TREMENDOUSLY when it was first published two years ago, and which, inside, is very similar to Wimpy Kid.

    This is going to be much sought after:
    http://www.freecomicbookday.com/news_images/115928_382366_11.jpg

  5. I wonder how much “substantial goodwill” in the marketplace Kinney is going to lose as a result of this lawsuit?

  6. Frank says:

    I hate to say this (because I love a good parody), but I can totally see my kids thinking this is the next book in the Wimpy Kid series.

    It does seem a little “too” close to the original and probably wasn’t the best idea for the presentation of the parody.

    MAD Magazine would have made this part of a larger compilation of parodies, or at least written “Mad Magazine Presents…” on the cover.

  7. Synsidar says:

    I agree that parodying the Wimpy Kid concept and material isn’t a problem by itself. Copying the appearance of the Wimpy Kid books is a problem, something they shouldn’t have done. The similarities might confuse buyers and cause them to think that the Wimpy Kid publisher approved the parody.

    SRS

  8. Torsten Adair says:

    Yeah… “Unauthorized Parody” might have been a good label… Slap a sticker on all books published, change the cover for future printings, and settle out of court.

    Goodwill? Trademarks have to be vigorously defended, or else they become null and void. Kinney and WKI are not being overly aggressive, they’re just filing a law suit.

  9. The Beat says:

    I think it’s the trade dress issue that made it actionable…that and no prominent “Parody” disclaimer.

    Papercutz’s take was a lot more clear on both points:

  10. Chris Hero says:

    That Papercutz book looks entirely removed from the Wimpy Kid line.

    Parody needs to distinguish itself in some manner if it’s being sold in the exact same market as the material its parodying.

  11. Horatio Weisfeld says:

    I agree with The Beat regarding the trade dress issue.

    American’s laws regarding parody seem generous and protect everyone’s creative rights. Were the courts to narrow the view of parody we would all suffer greatly.

    Having once worked for Mad, and having had a number of conversations with the publisher about what is and isn’t seen as parody, I find it disturbing when I see people attempting to exploit the law in this manner.

  12. of course

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