Houston Courtroom Battle Over Rin Tin Tin

A woman from Crockett who says she owns the rights to the name Rin Tin Tin is suing a movie studio that recently released a film about the famous German Shepherd. She is asking the court not only for money in damages, but also that every single copy of the movie be destroyed.

According to a lawsuit filed by Daphne Hereford in Houston federal court, the original Rin Tin Tin lived from 1918 until 1932. Lee Duncan found the dog in France during World War I and brought him to America, where the canine’s name and offspring became among the most famous television dogs of all time. Duncan also began a dog breeding program based on Rin Tin Tin.

In 1957, Duncan gave a puppy from Rin Tin Tin IV to Hereford’s grandmother in Houston and endorsed the breeding program to carry on the dog’s bloodline. Hereford helped her grandmother with the program and showed Rin Tin Tin V for years, until Hereford took over the operation in 1988 after her grandmother died.

Hereford has a federal trademark for the name Rin Tin Tin for live German Shepherd puppies and has promoted Rin Tin Tin by creating, among several services, the Rin Tin Tin museum, website, mail order fan club, publications and dog products such as collars, clothing, cups, mugs, board game and toys.

Earlier this month, defendants First Look Studios, First Look Home Entertainment, Nu Image Inc. and Millennium Films released the movie Finding Rin Tin Tin, which is about Duncan finding the original dog in Europe and the dog’s rise to fame, on DVD.

Hereford claims that the film companies knew she had the trademark but proceeded anyway. She says that the unauthorized use of the name Rin Tin Tin “has caused actual confusion, and is likely to cause further confusion” as to the studios’ affiliation with Hereford or with her dogs descended from Rin Tin Tin.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

-- Chris Vogel

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