Turns out, according to authorities, he didn’t know the secret in the scroll, after all.
A Randolph man was charged in federal court Monday with attempting to defraud DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. for falsely claiming that the company stole from him the characters and story for its animated movie, “Kung Fu Panda”.
Jayme Gordon, 51, made a brief appearance in federal court in Boston Monday to answer to four counts of wire fraud and three counts of perjury. He was released on unsecured bond.
Authorities allege that Gordon created a scheme after seeing a trailer for the Kung Fu Panda movie in early 2008 to make it look like the movie was based on sketches for a separate story he had already written, “Panda Power.” He then renamed his story “Kung Fu Panda Power,” though officials said the stories had little in common beyond “superficial similarities.”
In 2011, Gordon filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Dreamworks in US District Court in Massachusetts and proposed a $12 million settlement, which the company rejected. The litigation continued for two years.
Authorities later determined that Gordon allegedly deleted evidence on his computer that he would have been required to turn over under court rules in the copyright infringement lawsuit. He also allegedly fabricated and backdated sketches and submitted them as false evidence to support the lawsuit. Dreamworks officials ultimately determined that Gordon had allegedly traced some of his panda drawings from a Disney Lion King coloring book. He had dated his drawings to 1993 and 1994, though the book was not published until 1996.
When confronted about the coloring book by DreamWorks, Gordon agreed to dismiss his lawsuit. By then, the company had already spent $3 million defending the suit.
US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz called the case a blatant misuse of the civil lawsuit system.
“Our intellectual property laws are designed to protect creative artists, not defraud them,” Ortiz said in a statement. “The misuse of civil litigation as part of a fraud scheme, and lying under oath, as alleged in this case, warp our federal judicial system and must be addressed with appropriate criminal sanctions.
Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI in Boston, which investigated the case, added in a statement that, “Mr. Gordon went to great lengths to orchestrate and maintain this fraudulent scheme, trying to take credit for ideas he did not come up with nor work he simply did not do. . . . This case demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to root out individuals who try to steal ideas and information from hard-working American companies.”
Gordon faces up to 20 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud charges, though sentences in federal court are typically based on guidelines and fall far below the maximum.
The “Kung Fu Panda” movie is a cartoon film involving talking animals, including a bumbling panda named Po who aspires to be a kung fu master. He must fend off a dangerous warrior who is seeking the truth of power that is contained in a sacred Dragon Scroll.
The movie has turned into a franchise and has grossed more than $1.2 billion.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.