A Seattle artist is suing the Hartz Mountain Company, through which she used to sell her Angry Birds cat toys. The line of products pre-dates Rovio’s hit mobile game series and Juli Adams claims that Hartz had no right to sell the trademark and, by extension, deprive her of revenues.

According to law firms Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, Adams’ Angry Birds line was sold under arrangement with Hartz in 2006 (three years prior to Rovio’s first Angry Birds game). Adams says that the agreement with Hartz allowed her to maintain complete ownership of the intellectual property.

Hartz, however, filed a trademark application for Angry Birds, covering toys and sporting goods. In 2009, Hartz sold the trademark to Rovio and, in the process earned a license to sell toys using the likeness of the birds and pigs from the game.

Adams and her attorneys are pursuing Hartz, alleging that the company did not have the right to trademark and sell the Angry Birds name to Rovio. She is suing for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and sale of a trademark it did not own.

The artist is asking for damages, any funds Hartz has earned using the Angry Birds name, return of rights, another three times the damages resulting from Adams’ inability to register the trademark herself, court fees, and other awards based on the amount Hartz has earned from its sale of Rovio Angry Birds toys. These requests span the eight counts in the filing.

[Source: United States District Court, Western District of Washington]


Our Take
This is a convoluted case that will likely hinge on whether Hartz compensated Adams for allowing the company to file the trademarks on her behalf and in their name. The appendix that Adams signed demands “good and valuable consideration,” but the artist’s attorneys claim that no additional payment was made.

If successful, Adams could become very rich from Hartz’s sale of the Angry Birds trademark. For intellectual property geeks like me, this is one that will be very interesting to watch.