A New York-based production company is suing the Anne of Green Gables licensing board
The producers of a new musical are based on Anna on Green Gables have filed a lawsuit against the PEI-based Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority, claiming their work does not infringe any trademarks of the authority.
In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Southern District Court of New York, the producers allege that the Anne Authority is “brazenly” trying to extend the life of LM Montgomery’s famous book, set in Prince Edward Island, over an expired one monetize copyright.
The company is seeking a declaratory judgment finding that the title of her play “does not infringe any trademark or other intellectual property rights.”
The Anne Authority is owned jointly by the Province of PEI and Montgomery’s heirs, Ruth Macdonald and David Macdonald.
Anne With An E, LLC is a New York-based production company Anne of Green Gables: A New Musical. The folk-rock-tinged play was first produced in July 2018 and is currently in development for Broadway, according to the lawsuit.
Anna on Green Gables, the novel, entered the public domain in the United States in 1983 and in Canada in 1992. This occurs some time after an author’s death and usually means that the work is available for adaptation without charge.
But the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority has a trademark on Anne of Green Gables and has worked to control and protect new depictions of Anne even as the book entered the public domain.
In the New York lawsuit, however, producers claim Anne is “as public domain as Shakespeare’s plays.”
According to court documents, the producers filed the lawsuit after the licensing board sent a draft trademark infringement lawsuit and threatened to file it in court if the play wasn’t retitled. The deadline the authority set for the show to be rebranded was Monday, February 20.
CBC News reached out to the Anne Authority on Wednesday for comment but received no response.
The Confederation Center of the Arts on Prince Edward Island is home to Canada’s long-running musical based on the story of Anne. The center recently announced that Anne of Green Gables: The Musical will be produced biennially beginning in 2024.