Miramax Film continues to defend a lawsuit over its film "Rounders" after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 8 held that an "idea," although not copyrightable, can be the basis of a claim for

NEW YORK -- Miramax Film continues to defend a lawsuit over its film "Rounders" after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 8 held that an "idea," although not copyrightable, can be the basis of a claim for breach of an implied contract under California law.

The suit, originally filed in L. A. County Superior Court, alleges that Miramax and others breached an implied-in-fact contract when they "stole the ideas and themes" from Jeff Grosso's screenplay "The Shell Game" for the 1998 John Dahl film that starred Matt Damon and Edward Norton. The case, which includes a claim for copyright infringement, was transferred to the District Court in Los Angeles, according to Miramax attorney Richard Charnley.

The District Court granted defendants -- who include Spanky Pictures, producers Joel Stillerman and Ted Demme (now deceased), writers David Levien and Brian Koppelman and Miramax Books -- summary judgment on all claims. Grosso appealed.

In its opinion certified for publication, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's ruling barring Grosso's copyright claim, stating the two works are not substantially similar.

However, drawing on a 1956 California Supreme Court decision, the Court of Appeals held that the complaint alleges a claim for breach of implied-in-fact contract with respect to the idea, and remanded the case for further proceedings. Without the federal copyright claim, the case should be sent back to state court.