Michael Kump is a problem solver who fights tenaciously to protect his clients’ valuable intellectual property and contractual rights. Representing plaintiffs and defendants in a broad and sophisticated litigation practice for over thirty years, Mr. Kump has extensive experience and success inside and outside the courtroom in all aspects of intellectual property, contract, trade secrets, entertainment and antitrust litigation. His representative corporate clients include Starz Entertainment LLC, USI Holdings Corporation, and Vivendi Universal.
The Daily Journal, the leading legal newspaper in California, recognized Mr. Kump’s trial victory on behalf of his client Jamie McCourt, in “Top Plaintiffs’ Verdicts by Impact 2010.” Mr. Kump was selected to the “2011 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America,” and is a perennial selection in The Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers magazine.
- For over ten years, Mr. Kump has represented Starz, which owns and operates the “Starz,” “Encore,” and “Starz Play” movie channels and video-on-demand services made available through cable, satellite, and Internet transmissions. In addition to being a leader in the “traditional” pay television arena, Starz has long been at the forefront of the exploitation of motion pictures, and other video content, on the Internet. Mr. Kump has filed multiple actions in federal court to protect and enforce Starz’s copyright and contractual rights in films licensed under output agreements with major studios – issues that have become more critical with the emergence of electronic downloading and the distribution of entertainment properties over the Internet.
- In May 2011, Mr. Kump filed an action in Colorado state court on behalf of Starz against DISH Network LLC for breach of contract when DISH, without Starz’s permission, provided Starz’s premium programming free of charge for an entire year to over 10 million DISH customers. Starz sought damages against DISH of over $100 million because DISH’s “give-away” of Starz’s channels breached the parties’ Affiliation Agreement. The jury trial in this action commenced on April 22, 2013 in Douglas County District Court with Mr. Kump serving as lead trial counsel for Starz. During the second week of the jury trial, the parties reached a settlement of all claims brought by Starz against DISH.
- In July 2011, FX Network LLC filed an action in Los Angeles County Superior Court against DISH and Starz for intentional interference with contractual relations based upon DISH’s “free” give-away of Starz’s premium programming. Mr. Kump defended Starz in FX’s action and defeated FX’s motion for a preliminary injunction filed in July 2011. The action against Starz was dismissed in July 2013.
- In March 2007, Mr. Kump filed an action on behalf of Starz when a Disney subsidiary began permitting Internet services, such as Apple’s iTunes, to sell Disney Pictures that had been exclusively licensed to Starz (see Complaint). In August 2008, Mr. Kump and his team filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which asked the Court to interpret the parties’ license agreements as prohibiting the conduct at issue (see Motion). In September 2008, the Court granted Starz’s motion and adopted Starz’s interpretation of the parties’ contracts (see Order). The action was resolved in December 2008 on the eve of trial.
- In addition to litigation, Mr. Kump counsels Starz on a range of intellectual property issues, including the company’s rights in new technologies and markets. Mr. Kump also provides litigation representation and counseling to other companies concerning intellectual property and contractual rights in the media and entertainment industries, including by way of example, Media Rights Capital, a diversified global media company with operations in filmed entertainment, television programming and original digital content, and Prana Studios, a full-service 3-D animation and visual effects studio with production offices in Los Angeles and Mumbai.
- Mr. Kump represented Jamie McCourt, then owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in her marital dissolution action filed on October 27, 2009 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, including in connection with the trial conducted in August and September 2010 in which the Court ruled in Jamie’s favor, finding that the couple’s marital property agreement signed in 2004 was void and unenforceable (Case no. BD 514309).
Recent Intellectual Property and Entertainment Litigation
- Over the years, Mr. Kump has represented numerous other well-known entities and celebrities in a wide array of litigation involving intellectual property and entertainment matters. The following are some recent cases handled by Mr. Kump:
- Mr. Kump is representing William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment in a copyright infringement action filed in federal court in Los Angeles against the talent agency, various Fox entities, and others, in connection with the hit ABC series, New Girl.
- Mr. Kump represented all defendants in a copyright infringement action filed in 2013 by a screenwriter who claimed the motion picture Elysium starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster infringed the copyright in his screenplay. Mr. Kump represented longtime client MRC, the financier and producer of the film, along with Neill Blomkamp, the Oscar-nominated writer/director of the hit film District 9 who wrote and directed Elysium, and a major motion picture studio that distributed the film, among others. On October 3, 2014, United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the Northern District of California issued a 32‑page ruling granting KWIKA’s motion for summary judgment and denying the screenwriter’s motion for summary judgment. (See the Court’s ruling). The Court found that “while there might be some superficial similarities between the two works, a close examination of the screenplay and the film reveals many significant differences and few real similarities among the protectable elements.” Based on its ruling, the Court entered judgment in favor of defendants and dismissed the action.
- Mr. Kump is representing and defending the acclaimed actor Michael Keaton in a breach of contract action filed in federal court in Chicago in April 2013 by the producer of the motion picture The Merry Gentleman, which Mr. Keaton directed and starred in. (Merry Gentleman LLC v. George and Leona Productions, Inc. and Michael Keaton, USDC Case No. 1:13-cv-02690.) The producer alleged that the film did not succeed at the box office because of Mr. Keaton’s alleged breach of his directing agreement. After conducting discovery for several months, Mr. Kump and his team filed a motion for summary judgment which established that Mr. Keaton’s performance as director did not cause the film to underperform. On December 22, 2014, United States District Judge Gary Feinerman in Chicago agreed and granted the summary judgment motion in an 18-page opinion. The Hollywood Reporter ran a story about the victory entitled “Michael Keaton Beats Producer’s Lawsuit Over His Directorial Debut.”
- Mr. Kump represented Lloyd Braun, co-founder and co-owner of entertainment powerhouse BermanBraun, in the transaction that resulted in Braun becoming the company’s sole owner as of January 29, 2014. Braun is recognized as an innovator in traditional and new media, having served as President of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, followed by several years at Disney/ABC where he served as Chairman of ABC Entertainment Television Group, after which he served as the head of Yahoo! Media Group before founding BermanBraun in 2007. Braun’s company, now named Whalerock Industries, has over 150 employees in three divisions—digital, television and feature film—which create and exploit entertainment content across all platforms throughout the world. Mr. Kump now counsels Whalerock on a broad array of contract and intellectual property matters.
- Mr. Kump represented the renowned cartoonist and screenwriter Daniel Clowes in connection with the actions by actor Shia LaBeouf, whose short film exhibited at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival infringed Mr. Clowes’ comic published in 2007. The matter was resolved without Mr. Clowes filing an action for copyright infringement.
- Mr. Kump represented the Kardashian sisters (Kim, Khloe and Kourtney) in 2013 and 2014 in connection with a trademark infringement counterclaim filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The Kardashians licensed their names and likenesses to the company Boldface for use in connection with the distribution and sale of a cosmetic line, now known as “Kardashian Beauty.” A trademark dispute arose between Boldface and a Florida-based cosmetic company, after which Boldface filed a declaratory relief action in Los Angeles. The Florida company, in turn, filed a counterclaim against Boldface and the Kardashians for trademark infringement. The entire action was resolved after the Kardashians filed a motion for summary judgment.
- Mr. Kump represented an MRC (Media Rights Capital) entity in both federal and state court in 2011 through 2013 concerning MRC’s payment to the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust for the exclusive rights to the short story Adjustment Team written by the late Philip K. Dick, which was the basis for MRC’s successful film The Adjustment Bureau. MRC alleged that the Trust had breached representations and warranties that the Trust owned the exclusive world copyright rights in the underlying story because, in fact, the underlying story had fallen into the public domain in the U.S. and most foreign territories. Mr. Kump on behalf of MRC filed a complaint in federal court for declaratory relief. The parties amicably resolved their dispute in May 2013.
- Mr. Kump represented the Kardashian sisters (Kim, Khloe and Kourtney) in a proposed class action filed in 2012 in federal court in New York concerning the weight loss products sold under the QuickTrim brand, which the Kardashians endorse. The plaintiffs, who are purchasers of certain QuickTrim products, sued the manufacturer and distributor of the products for alleged false advertising, and included the Kardashians in the lawsuit. The action was dismissed in September 2013.
- Mr. Kump represented Kim Kardashian in 2011 and 2012 when she ended up in the middle of a lawsuit between TRIA Beauty, the company for which she endorsed an at-home laser hair removal product, and TRIA’s competitor, Radiancy, Inc. TRIA sued Radiancy in federal court in San Francisco for false advertising and Lanham Act violations. Several months later in mid-2011, Radiancy filed counterclaims against TRIA, and also sued Ms. Kardashian for false advertising for repeating TRIA’s advertising claims. After discovery and motion practice, the case against Ms. Kardashian was dismissed in July 2012.
- Mr. Kump represented the Kardashian sisters (Kim, Khloe and Kourtney) and their mother, Kris Jenner, in an action filed in 2011 in Fresno County Superior Court. The Kardashians had signed a contract with a company that specialized in debit card programs to endorse a debit card called the “Kardashian Kard.” When the card launched in November 2010, it was criticized by consumer advocates and the financial press because of the financial fees built into the card. After the Kardashians terminated the contract, the company filed a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against the Kardashians and their mother, Kris Kardashian Jenner, seeking $75 million for breach of contract. The complaint alleged the Kardashians publicized the termination of the contract, which caused the company to go out of business. Mr. Kump filed an anti-SLAPP motion to have the complaint dismissed on the ground the debit card company was seeking to hold the Kardashians liable for exercising their right of free speech on a matter of public interest. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton agreed, and granted the motion filed by Mr. Kump and awarded attorneys’ fees to the Kardashians. For more information, read the article from The Hollywood Reporter and Judge Hamilton’s opinion.
- When NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal was sued in July 2011 by an alleged former business associate, Shaq turned for help to Mr. Kump who removed the action to federal court and filed a motion to dismiss the entire lawsuit. The motion argued the entire action was time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiff countered that the statute of limitations had been tolled by California Code of Civil Procedure Section 351 because Shaq lived outside the state of California from the time the causes of action accrued. Mr. Kump’s motion argued, however, that Section 351 cannot be constitutionally applied in this case because the unreasonable burden it would impose on interstate commerce violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. On October 17, 2011, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen granted Mr. Kump’s motion and dismissed the entire action with prejudice, finding that “the burden on interstate commerce imposed by Section 351 outweighs the articulated state interest in this case, and the application of Section 351 to toll the statute of limitations on Plaintiff’s claims would violate the commerce clause.” (For more information, read Judge Nguyen’s opinion.) On May 23, 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Nguyen’s ruling, finding that “The burden on interstate commerce as applied to O’Neal is substantial and the countervailing interest is minimal. Application of section 351 in this case would offend the Commerce Clause and [plaintiff’s] suit was properly dismissed because it was untimely.” (See Ninth Circuit opinion.)
- In 2011, Mr. Kump represented Mark Koops in a confidential arbitration against Reveille Independent LLC. Mr. Koops was the co-creator and an executive producer of NBC’s television hit series “The Biggest Loser” and was for many years a Managing Director of Reveille.
- Since 2001, Mr. Kump has represented Greg Garrison, the longtime producer, director and part owner of the Dean Martin television shows, and his Executor and Trustee (after his death), in several disputes and lawsuits over the rights to the shows, including two separate copyright infringement actions in federal court and three separate civil actions in state court. One of the state actions filed by Mr. Garrison’s heirs alleged they should be awarded an interest in valuable property based upon an alleged forged agreement (Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BP 100614). After a six day trial in late 2009 and early 2010 handled by Mr. Kump, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz ruled in favor of Mr. Kump’s client (see Court’s opinion).
- When a third party sought to discover financial information concerning the clients of a top entertainment transactional law firm, Mr. Kump obtained an important ruling for the law firm in the California Court of Appeal that barred the discovery on the grounds that it invaded the clients’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to privacy. (Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie & Stiffelman, LLP v. Superior Court, Case No. B167832, 2003 WL 22138574 (Cal. App. 2d Dist., Sept. 17, 2003).)
Trade Secrets Litigation
- Over the past decade, Mr. Kump has served as West Coast litigation counsel for USI—a diversified insurance and financial services firm that is the eighth-largest insurance brokerage in the United States—in numerous misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition actions filed throughout California against insurance producers who left to join competing firms. In these actions, Mr. Kump obtained injunctive relief to protect USI’s trade secrets and to enforce USI’s restrictive covenants, which resulted in the cases settling on favorable terms for USI. Mr. Kump also counsels USI on a broad range of trade practice issues, including trade secret protection and the enforceability of contractual covenants governing competition.
Film & TV Profit Participants Litigation
- Mr. Kump has represented profit participants in several matters against studios and television and film companies to recover monies contractually owed to his clients.
- From 2010 to 2013 when the actions were settled out of court, Mr. Kump represented the writers and producers of the award winning television series “Smallville” against the vertically-integrated media conglomerate Time Warner. (KILLARA PRODUCTIONS, INC., a California corporation f/s/o Miles Millar; LEONARDTOWN PRODUCTIONS, INC., a California corporation f/s/o Alfred Gough; TOLLIN/ROBBINS PRODUCTIONS, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company vs. WARNER BROS. TELEVISION, a division of WB STUDIO ENTERPRISES, INC.; THE WB TELEVISION NETWORK PARTNERS, L.P.; WB COMMUNICATIONS, INC.; THE CW NETWORK, LLC; WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT, INC.; TIME WARNER, INC., Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC 434445).
- In 2008-2009, Mr. Kump represented the creators of the award winning animated television comedy “King of the Hill” against Twentieth Century Fox Television.
- In 2007-2008, Mr. Kump represented the creator (Nia Vardalos) and the executive producers (Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Gary Goetzman) of the film hit “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” against the film studio. (CLAVIUS BASE, INC., a California Corporation, GARY GOETZMAN PRODUCTIONS, INC., a California Corporation, MYPENZATTA, INC., a California corporation, vs. BIG WEDDING PRODUCTIONS, INC., a Canadian corporation, BIG WEDDING, LLC, a California limited liability company, GOLD CIRCLE FILMS, LLC, a South Dakota limited liability company, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC 375442).
Vivendi Universal Litigation
- In 2003 and 2004, Mr. Kump represented Vivendi Universal in a breach of contract action filed by USA Networks in the Delaware Chancery Court, which sought over $600 million in damages arising out of the parties’ creation of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE). This dispute was resolved favorably when InterActive Corp. f/k/a USA Networks sold its stake in VUE to NBC Universal.
Merle Norman Cosmetics Litigation
- For fifteen years, Mr. Kump represented Merle Norman Cosmetics, a national franchisor of cosmetics studios, in several federal and state actions covering a broad array of claims. In 2001, after years of multi-state discovery, Mr. Kump successfully represented plaintiff Merle Norman in a four-week civil RICO and fraud trial filed in New York federal court against an advertising company. The presentation of Merle Norman’s case involved the testimony of eighteen witnesses and over 700 exhibits presented digitally. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury awarded a multi-million-dollar verdict to Merle Norman.
Antitrust Litigation and Counseling
- Mr. Kump’s practice encompasses antitrust litigation and counseling. Mr. Kump successfully represented defendant Courtside LLC in 2013 in an antitrust action filed in federal court in Los Angeles. Courtside produces and finances multi-platform, quality programming and is the radio home for high profile personalities. In this action, independent producers of news and talk radio programs alleged that lead defendant Dial Global, Inc. monopolized certain markets in the radio programming industry, and that as part of this antitrust conspiracy, Courtside interfered with plaintiffs’ contracts with certain radio personalities. KWIKA filed a motion to dismiss the tort claims against Courtside for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On May 6, 2013, United States District Judge Jesus Bernal granted KWIKA’s motion, and dismissed all claims against Courtside. (The Original Talk Radio Network, Inc., et al v. Dial Global, Inc., et al, U.S.D.C. Case No. CV 12-7370-JGB.)
- For over ten years in the 80’s and 90’s, Mr. Kump successfully represented Merle Norman in a series of related state and federal actions, defending the company against alleged violations of the Sherman and Clayton Acts, while prosecuting the company’s trademark and Lanham Act claims. (Acton v. Merle Norman Cosmetics, Inc., 163 F.3d 605 (9th Cir. 1998) (Table, Text in WL, No. 97-56269); Acton v. Merle Norman Cosmetics, Inc., 1995-1 CCH Trade Cases 71,025 (C.D. Cal. 1995); Acton v. Merle Norman Cosmetics, Inc., 1994-2 CCH Trade Cases 70,784 (C.D. Cal. 1984); Merle Norman Cosmetics, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Ct., Cent. Dist. of Cal., 856 F.2d 98 (9th Cir. 1988).) During this litigation, Mr. Kump successfully defended the company in a five-week jury trial on antitrust issues and in a bench trial on causation and damages, while also recovering favorable settlements in two bad faith actions brought against the company’s insurers.
- Mr. Kump also represented International E-Z Up, Inc., the originator and manufacturer of instant portable canopies, against antitrust counterclaims filed in the company’s patent infringement case. After creating and implementing a targeted discovery plan, Mr. Kump brought a motion for summary judgment, which the federal court granted in a published opinion. (Carter v. Variflex, Inc., 101 F.Supp.2d 1261 (C.D. Cal. 2000).)
Admissions, Memberships & Qualifications
- California State Bar (Member, 1981)
- United States District Courts of Arizona, California, Colorado, and Northern Illinois
- Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the Ninth Circuit and the Second Circuit, the United States Tax Court, and the United States Supreme Court
- Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL) (Board of Governors, 2002-2007)
Honors & Awards
- Mr. Kump was selected by Lawdragon magazine for the “2011 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America” in the area of Litigation, an award some consider the most elite distinction in the legal profession. Lawdragon described the 2011 Lawdragon 500 as follows: “Here you will find the lawyers who brought in the biggest verdicts and settlements, handled the biggest deals and defined what law practice was in the year just past. The quality and quantity of submissions, voter comments and information from trusted sources has increased each year, making the 2011 selection process the most exhaustive and intense yet.”
- Mr. Kump has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America every year since 2012.
- Mr. Kump has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers magazine every year since 2006.
- Mr. Kump has been named one of the top 100 trial lawyers in California by The National Trial Lawyers.
- From 2002 to 2007, Mr. Kump served on the Board of Governors of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL).
Publications & Speaking Engagements
Mr. Kump has spoken and written extensively, and been quoted in leading newspapers and periodicals, on current topics in his areas of expertise.
On November 21, 2014, The Daily Journal legal newspaper published an article by Mr. Kump entitled “Beware of Inadvertent Production of Privileged Documents” in its section on Professional Responsibility. Mr. Kump’s article discusses recent developments in California case and statutory law concerning the duties and obligations of attorneys who receive documents in discovery that might be privileged.
On October 18, 2013, Mr. Kump spoke to law students at The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor on current trends and careers in entertainment law.
On June 9, 2013, Mr. Kump spoke at the 2013 Produced By Conference sponsored by the Producers Guild of America, which was held at 20th Century Fox Studios. Mr. Kump was featured with three other entertainment luminaries in a panel session titled “Are You Getting Your Fair Share? – Producer Share Participations: ‘The Dream Team,’” which provided conference attendees with valuable lessons on how to maximize value from a producer share participation arrangement.
On April 28, 2011, Mr. Kump gave an evening presentation entitled “Lessons From the McCourt Case Regarding Post-Nuptial Agreements” to the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles.
For the past several years, including in January 2010 and 2011, Mr. Kump has been a regular speaker on “Recent Developments in Contract Litigation” at the annual CLE Int’l Film and Television Law Conference.
On November 13, 2008, CIO published its interview with Mr. Kump on intellectual protection and trade secret protection in the employment arena.
On September 25, 2008, Mr. Kump presented an audio teleconference for 150 human resources professionals sponsored by the Employer Resources Institute on “Noncompete Agreements: California Supreme Court Sounds Death Knell for Noncompetes: What Employers Should Do Now to Protect Themselves.”
Other representative articles by Mr. Kump include the following: “Businesses Should Pursue Nonacceptance Injunctions,” Los Angeles Daily Journal, Feb. 24, 2004, p. 7; “The Rule of Proportionality in Civil RICO Suits,” Los Angeles Lawyer, Dec. 2002, Vol. 25, No. 9, p. 12; “New Amendments Give Losing Party Another Bite at the Apple,” Los Angeles Daily Journal, Dec. 3, 2002, p. 7; “The Reasonable Particularity Requirement in Trade Secret Actions,” ABTL Report, Fall 2002, Vol. XXV, No. 1., p. 10; “Businesses Shouldn’t Rely on Nonacceptance Provisions,” Los Angeles Daily Journal, Aug. 29. 2002, p. 7.
Representative quotations by Mr. Kump include the following: “Suit Against Clear Channel Over Racing Goes to Jury,” New York Times, March 21, 2005;
“Clear Channel Loses Case With Rival,” New York Times, March 22, 2005;
“Clear Channel Antitrust Probe Continues,” San Antonio Express News, March 22, 2005;
“Down in the Dirt,” New York Times, August 30, 2004
Mr. Kump was born and raised in Northfield, Minnesota. He is a graduate of Grinnell College (B.A. 1974, Phi Beta Kappa), The University of Michigan (M.A. in Philosophy, 1976, Ph.D. in Philosophy, 1979), and The University of Michigan School of Law (J.D., cum laude, 1981).