Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Sharapova loses lawsuit against documentary firm


A federal judge ruled against tennis star Maria Sharapova on Wednesday, saying a Florida production company was entitled to market a documentary on her despite her agents' attempts to halt distribution.

US District Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled that Byzantium Productions was lawful in its production of two films, Anna's Army and Russian Women's Tennis.

The documentaries did not violate trademark laws, the judge found.

Jonathan Koch, a Tampa attorney representing Sharapova, said he initially believed there was potential for confusion among consumers that the films were official documentaries.

As the litigation progressed, though, he said he changed his mind.

"As we investigated and as the controversy developed we concluded that the commercial significance of the matter did not justify being involved in a lawsuit," Koch said.

The decision means Byzantium, a two-man operation in West Palm Beach, can move forward with plans to distribute its work in Japan and elsewhere, though the filmmakers said the damage had already been done.

In addition to footage of Sharapova, the films include interviews with Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and others.

IMG, the agency which represents Sharapova and her company, SW19 Inc, had said that Byzantium had illegally used the tennis player's identity and infringed on her company's trademark and legal rights, among other claims.

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