Cinar and JHC settle out of court
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CINAR Corp., a Canadian producer of children's television programs, said on Tuesday it had settled a U.S. lawsuit filed against it by Jim Henson Co., creator of the Muppets.
The lawsuit, filed last January in New York, alleged the puppets on the Montreal-based company's pre-school children's series ``Wimzie's House'' too closely resembled Muppets characters, which include the famed Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster and Big Bird.
CINAR currently produces the No. 1 children's show for PBS, the Emmy Award-winning ``Arthur,'' as well as ``Wimzie's House,'' and ``ZOBOOMAFOO.''
The suit said the CINAR program, and its related merchandising products, violated the U.S. firm's copyright and trademark rights and demanded CINAR stop distribution.
No details of the settlement were disclosed but CINAR's president and co-founder, Ronald Weinberg, said it included conditions related to the non-replication of specific design features unique to the Muppets.
It also allows CINAR to continue distributing the ``Wimzie's House'' merchandise and program worldwide.
"We had always taken the view that what we had created was original and we've always denied any wrongdoing but obviously the lawsuit was something that was hanging over us, either to go to court or to be settled,'' Weinberg said in a telephone interview.
The CINAR show is in its third season on U.S. public broadcaster PBS, where the Jim Henson Co.'s children's program ''Sesame Street'' has enjoyed run of more than 20 years.
``There hasn't been any confusion that we have heard about. The show's been on the same network that 'Sesame Street' has been on for 20 years,'' Weinberg said.
Controversy erupted around CINAR in October when the company was investigated for tax fraud by Canadian police, a probe which led to its shares losing 30 percent of their value.
Weinberg said the company, which had yet to be contacted by investigators, was ``in the process of making contact with the government agencies involved and trying to have a dialogue with them to help advance the matter.''