On April 8, 1990, Twin Peaks, a mystery horror drama television series created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, premiered on ABC. Although after its second season the show got canceled, it nonetheless had a devoted cult following. Twin Peaks is considered by some critics as a landmark turning point in television drama. The series’ story follows an investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper and local Sheriff Harry Truman into the murder of homecoming Laura Palmer in the rural town of Twin Peaks, Washington. Twin Peaks Productions owns all the copyrights in the program and the trademark Twin Peaks. The success of the show sparked the licensing of a film and two books.On October 2, 1990, Publications International published an unauthorized book written by Scott Knickelbine entitled Welcome to Twin Peaks. Scott Knickelbine describes himself as a data geek, marketing consultant, writer and technophile from Wisconsin. The book purports to be “A Complete Guide to the Who’s Who and What’s What” of the television series. Penguin USA distributed Welcome to Twin Peaks.Twin Peaks Productions claimed that Publications International’s publication Welcome to Twin Peaks was a violation of their copyrighted works and trademark. On November 12, 1991, the court case Twin Peaks Productions v. Publications International took place at the United States District Court of New York. Judge John Martin held that:
Copyright Act. [...] Much of the book consists of detailed description of the plot, setting, and character development of the first eight episodes of Twin Peaks. Excerpts from episodes are quoted verbatim. [...] This Court finds that Welcome to Twin Peaks is literally similar to Twin Peaks Productions’ teleplays and as such infringes upon Twin Peaks Productions’ exclusive right to reproduce the work. [...] [Publications International] assert that there has been no copyright infringement since any use of the allegedly copyrighted material was fair use. [...] Publications International claims that the purpose of the book is educational and that the character of the book is commentary. [...] [T]his Court declines to find this profit motivated recounting of a fictionalized teleplay educational. [...] The second factor to be considered in determining the applicability of the fair use doctrine is the nature of the work. Certain cases have held that the public interest in the dissemination of knowledge about an event outweighs the copyright owner’s rights. [...] None of these cases involve a work of fiction. [...] The third factor addresses the amount and substantiality of the portion of [Twin Peaks Productions]’s work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Here the book provides synopses for several episodes, lifting many parts verbatim from the script. Thus, the [Publications International]’s book utilizes substantial parts of the copyrighted material. [...] The fourth factor is the effect of the work on [Twin Peaks Productions]’s potential market. [...] Twin Peaks Productions has already authorized several books related to the Program [...] Thus, Welcome to Twin Peaks is in direct competition with [ Twin Peaks Productions]’s books. [...] Publications International makes the argument that their use of Twin Peaks Productions’ copyrighted teleplays as a source for their book is protected by the first amendment. The law, however, is clear that such first amendment concerns are subsumed within the fair use analysis. [...] Lanham Act. [...] The inquiry in an action for trademark infringement is whether there is any likelihood that an appreciable number of “ordinary prudent” purchasers are likely to be misled or merely confused as to the source of the goods in question. [...] Upon review of the evidence, this Court concludes that a substantial number of reasonably prudent purchasers, on seeing the name Twin Peaks as part of the title of the Book would be led to believe that [Twin Peaks Productions] was the source of the goods.
The court concluded copyright and trademark infringement and granted summary judgment in favor of Twin Peaks Productions. Publications International appealed the decision. On June 7, 1993, the court case Twin Peaks Productions v. Publications International took place at the United States Court of Appeal. Judge Jon Newman held that:
I. Copyright Liability. A. Prima facie copyright liability. 1. Access. [...] In isolated instances, dialogue quoted in the Book varies slightly from dialogue as set forth in the teleplays [...] but these instances are insignificant. [...] 2. Substantial similarity. Publications International fails to recognize that the concept of similarity embraces not only global similarities in structure and sequence, but localized similarity in language. [...] 3. Infringement of the right to make derivative works. [...] [W]e believe the District Court was correct in determining that the Book constituted a “derivative work” [...] B. Fair use. The central issue on the copyright claim is the fair use defense. [...] We conclude that the Court’s rejection of the fair use defense was entirely correct. [...] C. First Amendment defense. [...] The First Amendment defense was properly rejected. [...] II. Trademark Liability. A. Secondary meaning. [...] Twin Peaks Productions submitted extensive evidence of the publicity received by the televised episodes, and even Publications International concedes that the series was a “media phenomenon”. [...] B. Trademark infringement by literary titles. [...] [T]he disclaimer partially blunts Twin Peaks Productions’ attack by alerting readers that the Book has not been licensed. [...] [W]e vacate the District Court’s determination that Publications International engaged in unfair competition as well.
The court affirmed the first decision as to copyright liability, fair use and first amendment of free speech but vacated the decision as to trademark liability.