LOS ANGELES - November 9, 2023 – In what has been a decade long battle between the Shelby Trust, owner of “Shelby” trademarks and trade dress relating to internationally known and respected Shelby vehicles, and Denise Halicki, surviving spouse of H.B. "Toby" Halicki, producer of the 1974 “Gone in 60 Seconds” film, the 1982 “The Junkman” film, and the 1983 “Deadline Auto Theft film, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has finally and decisively placed Shelby in the driver's seat.
Multiple fungible yellow and black Mustangs code-named “Eleanor” appeared in each of Mr. Halicki's Gone in 60 Seconds and Deadline Auto Theft films, and one of the beaten up yellow and black prop cars from Gone in 60 Seconds was shown in The Junkman. In the 2000 Hollywood Pictures' remake of Gone in 60 Seconds, the code name “Eleanor” was used to refer to rare Shelby GT500 cars, one of which was grey and black and the other of which was rusted and Paintless. Mrs. Halicki claimed that all these multiple cars referred to as “Eleanor” appearing across the four above-mentioned movies comprised a single copyrightable character belonging to her and that her purported character copyright somehow prohibited the Shelby Trust from licensing other people and companies to manufacture, sell or auction Shelby GT500s.
Mrs. Halicki went so far as to sue and/or threaten to sue Shelby GT500 vintage manufacturers, customers and auction houses, because she claimed their cars violated her alleged copyright interests - in a purported “Eleanor” character because they looked like the grey and black “Eleanor” car from the 2000 Hollywood Pictures remake film, “which in fact was repeatedly identified in the movie as a Shelby GT500.” The Shelby Trust was thus forced to sue to protect its licensees and loyal Shelby GT500 owners.
In November 2022, the Court rejected Mrs. Halicki's longstanding practice of trying to extract money from Shelby GT500 vintage manufacturers and car owners based on a non-existent copyright and decisively ruled that the Eleanor code named vehicles shown in the Gone in 60 Seconds, The Junkman and Deadline Auto Theft movies are NOT deserving of any “character” copyright protection.
The Court, in a meticulous 41-page opinion, criticized Mrs. Halicki and her counsel for misleading prior courts through their “unfortunate practice of . . . embellishing facts in their briefing” and causing “factual inaccuracies” to make their way into a Ninth Circuit opinion “that likely assumed the facts were true” when they were not. Based on its independent review of the movies in question, the Court found various of Mrs. Halicki and her counsel's representations about the movies to be “plainly false” or “an embellishment, to say the least.”
After trial in 2023, the Court rejected Mrs. Halicki's fall-back argument, that a 2007 settlement agreement somehow prevented the Shelby Trust and its licensees from selling newly manufactured Shelby GT500s made under license to Carroll Shelby Licensing. The Court rejected Mrs. Halicki's contract arguments, stating that Mrs. Halicki's theories were “untethered to the text of the contract.” The Court also left the door open for Shelby to sue in the future should Mrs. Halicki attempt to impede the lawful commerce of Shelby vehicles in the future.
M. Neil Cummings, Esq., CEO of Carroll Shelby Licensing, Inc., and Co-Trustee of the Shelby Trust who has overseen the entire process, is very pleased with the Court's decision and happy for all Shelby customers and the Shelby legacy.
“Shelby was compelled to take this action to protect our valued licensees and Shelby GT500 owners,” said Mr. Cummings. “We can finally tell them that Mrs. Halicki has absolutely no right to complain about or file a lawsuit based upon the looks of any car licensed by the Shelby Trust. The true worth of all vintage Shelby GT500s is now secure with this news.”