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Breaking it down: Carlton sues Fortnite over dance moves

On Behalf of | Jan 1, 2019 | Trademark Law

Many will no doubt remember the geeky Carlton character from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. While actor Alfonso Ribeiro (who played Carlton) still enjoys the fruits of his labors thanks to residuals of a show that starred Will Smith, Ribeiro has now filed a suit against Fortnite creators Epic Games for copying the Carlton Dance. The actor also claims he is now in the process of copywriting the dance.

Lawsuits against Fortnite are mounting

According to multiple news reports, the suit alleges direct use of the The Carlton Dance for what the game creators called Fresh Emote, which was added in January of 2018. While the game is free, there are auxiliary add-on items that players can buy, such as emotes or dance moves. According the Wall Street Journal, Fortnite has earned an estimated $2 billion.

This is not the only suit against Fortnite for appropriating dances. Recently, rapper 2 Milly claimed that the game stole his Milky Rock dance. Chance The Rapper also weighed in on the use of these appropriated dances, pointing out in July of 2018 that the creators might as well use the hip-hop music used to make the dances popular in the first place to provide income to the creative musicians who inspired the dances.

Can dance moves be trademark protected?

Floss Dance creator Backpack Kid has stepped up with a suit of his own. With the Floss Dance being the biggest dance since Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk, the implications of these mounting lawsuits could spell real trouble for Epic Game. However, some argue that the U.S. Copyright Office prohibits the registration of dance moves. Moreover, there is the question of ownership, at least for the Carlton Dance, because it actually may be owned by the show instead of the actor.

We will continue to follow this interesting issue as the cases unfold.

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