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A Legal Riddle: Can Actor Win His $9-Million Batsuit?

Times Staff Writer

Holy mirror image! Ex-Batman Adam West isn’t doing battle with super-villains these days. He’s fighting another Batman.

West, who portrayed the Caped Crusader in the campy 1960s TV series, is asking for more than $9 million in damages from a group of advertising agencies that filmed television commercials with a non-West Batman.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Aug. 7, 1989 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday August 7, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Adam West’s Lawsuit--An article Saturday incorrectly reported the amount of damages actor Adam West is seeking in a lawsuit against three firms, which he says used his likeness in commercials without authorization. West is seeking $900,000.

West claimed that the other Batman used West’s “likeness, personality, voice and mannerisms” in a way that would make viewers believe they were watching West.

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Attorneys for West and the agencies appeared before Burbank Superior Court Judge Stephen O’Neil Friday. O’Neil denied a motion from the agencies’ attorney to dismiss the case and ordered the two sides to appear for trial on Nov. 6.

“It’s a small victory for Adam West on his way to trial,” said one of his attorneys, Barbara Silcott.

The commercials depict the Batman and Robin characters shopping during the Christmas season at Zayre’s, a chain of discount stores, Silcott said.

West’s lawsuit, which was filed in August, 1988, claimed that the commercials had been shown numerous times in the United States since 1984 and that his “reputation as an actor” had been damaged. The suit alleged that West had endorsed several products and that his endorsement added credibility to the products.

“They just hired a person to imitate him because they didn’t want to pay for the real thing,” said Robert Winckler, another attorney for West. “They just can’t hire someone to look alike or sound alike.”

Defendants Named

The suit named Ian Leech and Associates, a Los Angeles firm; Ingalls, Quinn and Johnson, a Boston, Mass., firm and BBDO New York as defendants.

Anthony E. Liebig, an attorney for the firms, said the agencies purchased the rights to the Batman character from DC Comics, who originated the crime fighter.

“Just because an actor does a role one time doesn’t mean he has to be hired every time you want someone to play that role,” Liebig said.

West was passed over for the hit “Batman” movie now in theaters.


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