The creators of Netflix’s Stranger Things Matt and Ross Duffer will head to trial. The brothers have been accused of stealing ideas from Charlie Kessler.
The Hollywood Reporter indicates they will head to trial after a Los Angeles Superior Court denied summary judgment.
Kessler claims the Duffer brothers stole ideas from his film script titled The Montauk Project. The film took place in the small New York town and featured “various urban legends” as well as “paranormal and conspiracy theories.” He specifically points to his concept of a sci-fi story set next to an abandoned military base.
Kessler’s attorney is demanding that he be made a partner and receive a third of all earnings from Stranger Things.
“If Defendants made $1 million from writing and producing a Series, a show that exists solely because of the ideas pitched to them by Mr. Kessler under the implied contract, then Mr. Kessler’s damages for his share of the joint venture would be one-third of the monies received, or $333,333.33.”
The Duffer brothers refute this claim and noted they didn’t “manifest any intent to enter into a binding agreement” with Kessler.
The Duffer brothers’ lawyer argued, “Charlie Kessler asserts that he met the Duffers, then two young filmmakers whom Kessler never had heard of, and chatted with them for ten to fifteen minutes.” He continues, “That casual conversation — during which the Duffers supposedly said that they all ‘should work together’ and asked ‘what [Kessler] was working on’ — is the sole basis for the alleged implied contract at issue in this lawsuit and for Kessler’s meritless theory that the Duffers used his ideas to create Stranger Things.”
However, Los Angeles Superior Judge Michael Stern ruled:
“The circumstances under which [Kessler] claims to have submitted his ideas to the defendants are not analogous. The plaintiff’s claimed expectations also differ significantly. He contemplated commercial exploitation and profitability… Triable issues of fact remain to be determined concerning what plaintiff said, what he meant to convey by his conversation and how the defendants responded before it can be definitively concluded whether or not an implied in fact contract was formed.”
The Duffer brothers argued they had actually begun working on a sci-fi film back in 2010.
The Judge noted they didn’t have “admissible evidence.”
“Without such admissible evidence, we are left with an issue of determining credibility that must be decided by the trier of fact.”
“Moreover, whether or not there is a similarity between the concepts to be discerned by comparing them is a subissue of independent creation that must be decided by the trier of fact.”
A Netflix spokesperson has stated the Duffer Brothers have their “full support.” They added, “This case has no merit, which we look forward to being confirmed by a full hearing of the facts in court.”
However, Kessler’s attorney Michael Kernan believes their is merit and felt vindicated after the judge dismissed the motion for summary judgment.
“Now that the Judge has ruled and denied their motion for summary judgment, we can now dispense with the nonsense promoted by the Duffers and Netflix that this lawsuit has no merit, and that they had ‘proof’ that they created the show. If the lawsuit had no merit, or if they actually had the ‘proof’ they created it, then their summary judgment would have won. They lost. These motions are very hard to fight and winning this Motion shows Mr. Kessler has a good case. We look forward to proving Mr. Kessler’s case at trial.”
A court date has been set for May 6, 2019.
The third season of Stranger Things Season 3 is expected to hit Netflix on July 4, 2019.