panda.jpgSan Diego – The cuddly kung fu-fighting bear which drew millions to the theatres to see “Kung Fu Panda” is now the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Jayme Gordon, a Massachusetts animation illustrator, filed a complaint in federal district court in Boston claiming that DreamWorks Animation stole his idea for the panda bear.  Gordon is alleging that “Po”, the panda depicted in “Kung Fu Panda” is strikingly similar to “Kidd”, a panda character that he began drawing in the 1990’s.

Gordon’s complaint also alleges infringement on other animated characters and plot components.  For example, Gordon developed a small red panda character to act as “Kidd’s” sidekick, as well as three other animated characters which made up a kung fu fighting group called the “Five Fists of Fury.”  The setting for Gordon’s characters is called “The Valley of Peace.”  Interestingly enough, there is a team of very similar characters to assist “Po” in “Kung Fu Panda” called the “Furious Five” and they live in the nearly identical “Valley of Peace.”  The L.A. Times posted a side-by-side comparison of Gordon’s characters and DreamWorks’ characters. 

The animated movie, which grossed more than $630 million, was so popular that DreamWorks has scheduled “Kung Fu Panda 2” to be released to theatres this June.

Gordon registered his characters with the United States Copyright Office in 2000 and alleges that the DreamWorks had access to his ideas due to the fact that he sent his works to animators and film studios.  In addition to damages and movie profits pursuant to copyright law, Gordon is seeking attorney’s fees, authorship rights, and statutory damages.

Overall this doesn’t look so good for DreamWorks.