Power Rangers have legal backup Lawsuit says woman is illegally benefiting from characters' fame

April 02, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Even superheroes need protection now and then.

So, a major children's television producer is suing a Hyattsville woman, claiming she is illegally cashing in on the fame of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Carol Bullock, owner of Bingo and Buddies and Cabaret Carol, supplies costumed entertainers for children's parties. Among them, according to her advertisement in Washington Parent magazine, are the six Power Rangers.

But in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Saban Entertainment Inc. says it spent millions to acquire and promote the Rangers, and Bullock has no business using them.

The Los Angeles-based company tenaciously guards the reputation of its Rangers, which have put more than $1 billion dollars in its pockets.

"Most of our fans are pretty young they believe. The Power Rangers are superheroes and they know what they're supposed to look like," said Angie Small, vice president of legal affairs for Saban. "We've had complaints about substantially overweight people showing up in Spandex, complaints about very, very dirty smelly people."

Saban has sued hundreds of pretenders and for a while even had a toll-free hot line for turning in bogus Rangers. In 1995, Saban won a $55,000 judgment against an Alexandria, Va., woman who charged $180 an hour for an appearance.

In a brief telephone interview last week, Bullock denied she is being sued.

"They can't shut me down for something that isn't even happening," she said. "This is ludicrous."

The inch-thick suit, complete with mug shots of the real and faux crime fighters, alleges that despite two written warnings and a visit from a private detective, Bullock continues to dispatch Rangers from her Prince George's County condominium.

Court documents show that Bullock was served legal paperwork Feb. 20, but she threw it in the trash. Earlier, the suit says, she told the private detective she "had no intention of stopping."

Entertainment industry experts say it's not surprising that Saban would spend a great deal of money on the Bullock case.

"I know it sounds like the big guy jumping on the small guy, but that's the way the business is done," said Stan Soocher, editor-in-chief of Entertainment Law and Finance. "It's their livelihood."

Another lawyer for Saban, Belinda Scrimenti, said illegal trading on the Rangers' name is a widespread problem.

"Their popularity has peaked, but they're still quite a draw for children," Scrimenti said.

She said Saban always sends written warnings first. "The majority of them comply. It's rare when you get no reaction."

Saban wants the court to force Bullock to stop booking performances, destroy the costumes and promotional materials, and pay unspecified damages for each copyright or trademark infringement.

Bullock is still running ads in Washington Parent, with one small change: Power Rangers have morphed into Power Buddies.

That is not likely to make any difference in the suit, said Soocher.

"You can't just open a Disney World and call it Daffy World," he said.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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