Trial Schedule

Plaintiffs and defense attorneys met with Judge R. Gary Klausner on May 9 for a conference to create a schedule leading up to a January 31, 2017, trial in CBS and Paramount Pictures’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar Productions. That schedule also included settlement talks before a federal magistrate.

Joint Report

A week before the conference (May 2), the two sides filed a joint report, required by the judge, that proposed several months of discovery and motions, as well a plan for alternative dispute resolution, before the January 2017 trial.

The parties don’t plan to add other parties, squelching (for now) speculation about which Doe defendants might have been named.

The joint report submitted by the attorneys noted the parties met on April 18, 2016, to confer on the discovery plan, trial schedule and alternative dispute resolution.

The joint report mostly re-states what both parties have previously filed in the legal complaint and motions to dismiss. Judge Klausner denied the dismissal motion on May 9.

Claims and Defense

In the report, CBS and Paramount’s attorneys, Loeb & Loeb neatly summed up their reasons for the suit:

  1. Axanar intended to be a produce a professional-quality “prequel” to the original Star Trek.
  2. The prequel intended to employ numerous copyrighted Star Trek elements.
  3. Axanar raised more than $1 million to produce its works, Prelude to Axanar and Axanar.

Meanwhile more details emerged about Axanar’s evolving defense from their attorneys, Winston & Strawn:

  • That Prelude to Axanar and Axanar are “original, creative, transformative works.”
  • Axanar’s use of Star Trek elements is fair use.
  • They disagreed with the characterization of the Axanar works as a “prequel or otherwise derivative of Star Trek, instead asserting “the Axanar Works are intended to be ‘Star Trek like you have never seen it before.’”
  • They asserted the elements CBS and Paramount “claim have been infringed are not copyrightable.”
  • Since Axanar has not yet been produced the plaintiffs’ copyright claim is premature.

No Does?

The joint report also noted the parties don’t currently plan additional motions seeking to add other parties, squelching (for now) speculation about which Doe defendants might have been named.

However, the filing did not close off the possibility that other parties might be named, with its proposed schedule trial schedule allowing for parties to be added to the case by June 8, 2016.

Requests for Summary Judgment

Both sides signaled plans to move for summary judgment in the case, asking the court to rule in the case without a full trial. Such a judgment may be issued on the merits of an entire case, or on discrete issues in that case.1)

However, they also agreed they did not plan to add other claims, file amended pleadings or request a transfer of venue.

Discovery Plans

See also: Discovery plan

The report revealed the two sides met on April 18 to serve requests for:

  • Production of relevant documents.
  • Completing interrogatories, a formal set of written questions from one litigant to his or her adversary. Interrogatories help determine in advance what facts might be presented at trial.

The defense also made requests for admissions, a set of statements they want the plaintiffs to either admit or deny.

Plaintiffs' Discovery Plan

Apart from their initial interrogatories and document requests, the plaintiffs plan to depose Alec Peters and other Axanar Productions employees and representatives, including people not formally parties to the case who have knowledge of the defendants’ “use of the Star Trek Works.”

Defense Discovery Plan

Apart from its initial requests, the defense intends to depose a variety of witnesses, including employees and representatives of CBS and Paramount, as well other possible people who may have knowledge of plaintiffs’:

  • Alleged ownership Star Trek’s copyrights.
  • Allegations of infringement.
  • Alleged damages.

Notably, Axanar’s attorneys also plan to call witnesses specifically to support its fair use defense.

Proposed Trial Schedule

The joint report outlined a schedule for pretrial activities leading up to a trial originally scheduled to begin in spring 2017. However, following the May 9, 2016, scheduling conference, a January 31, 2017, trial date was set, which changed the pre-trial dates to those set below. The schedule will be updated as it changes in the timeline of the case.

Date Scheduled Event
5/25/16 Last day to add parties
11/2/16 Fact discovery cut-off
11/16/16 Motion cut-off
12/16/16 Objections to admitting evidence
1/4/17 Expert witness disclosure
1/9/17 Final Pre-Trial Conference
1/31/17 Trial Begins*
* Expected to last up to 15 days, with each side calling at least five witnesses.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

At the same time, the parties responded to Judge R. Gary Klausner‘s March 4 order that the attorneys explore one of several alternative dispute resolutions as a means to avoid going to the time and expense of trial.

According to their joint request, the plaintiffs and defendants selected the first option Klausner presented them: Settlement proceedings overseen by a federal magistrate, Judge Charles F. Eick.

Eick has considered other copyright cases, most recently a 2014 case involving a James Bond Knockoff, a 2013 case in which the frontman for the rock band Lights Over Paris was charged with fraud, and threw out a lawsuit brought by a former production assistant for director Oliver Stone who alleged the Walt Disney Co. and ABC had stolen ideas from her screenplay for the show Ugly Betty.2)

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