The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a 2001 verdict that found 20th Century Fox had stolen the script that was the basis for a 1996 movie, "Jingle All the Way."
The decision, handed down Friday, found that "Jingle All the Way," which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, was an original work written by Randy Kornfield and not based on a screenplay named "Could This Be Christmas," written by a Detroit high school teacher, Brian Webster.
The ruling overturns a March 2001 jury verdict that awarded a small Detroit publishing firm called Murray Hill Publications $19 million, which the trial judge subsequently reduced. The jury found that "Could This Be Christmas" had been shopped around to the major studios, including Fox, and that soon after, Fox purchased the rights to "Jingle All the Way." The plaintiff said the Fox film bore a remarkable resemblance to its script.
"Jingle All the Way" grossed $80 million at the box office and in video sales.
In Friday's decision, the court ruled that "Jingle All the Way" was based on a treatment that was completed long before anyone at Fox had access to the script for "Could This Be Christmas."
Friday's ruling noted the trial judge had not informed the jury that neither the writer of "Jingle All the Way" nor anyone else at Fox could have seen the plaintiff's script before the treatment for "Jingle All the Way" was completed.