A federal appellate court in Detroit on Sept. 14 threw out a copyright infringement suit involving the Adam Sandler film "Little Nicky."

NEW YORK -- A federal appellate court in Detroit on Sept. 14 threw out a copyright infringement suit involving the Adam Sandler film "Little Nicky."

Actor and former pro hockey player Douglas Stromback claimed that he wrote a poem in 1998-99, "The Keeper," which he later developed into a screenplay. He shared his work with two individuals who, he claimed, passed copies of the work to New Line Cinema in 1999.

When "Little Nicky" was released in 2000, Stromback noticed similarities in theme, character treatment and development, character traits and scene selection. In October 2001, he filed suit against New Line and others, alleging copyright and trademark claims, as well as various state claims based on Michigan and California law.

Nearly a year later, as the only remaining defendant, New Line moved for summary judgment. All other defendants had been dismissed, says New Line attorney Herschel Fink of Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn in Detroit.

The District Court granted summary judgment, holding that "no reasonable jury" could find substantial similarity between Stromback's work and "Little Nicky." Stromback appealed.

At the time of the District Court's ruling, the Sixth Circuit had not formally adopted a specific test or approach for determining substantial similarity in copyright infringement cases. After the ruling but before the appeal was heard, a two-part test was adopted in another case by the federal Court of Appeals.

In affirming the summary judgment, the Court of Appeals followed this new approach.

Fink says the court summed up the case completely in the opinion, which stated that the court was "unable to find any similarity between the works other than at perhaps the most superficial level."

Stromback's attorney did not return calls for comment.

Additional discussion of the court's opinion is in ELW's 9/21/2004 The Fine Print.