Warren Miller lawsuit comes to a close

A T-shirt worn at a Level 1 showing of "Refresh" last fall. Chip Kalback

Updated Oct 14: Warren Miller released a statement today regarding the legal arbitration that ended last week between him and Warren Miller Entertainment. "As most of you can imagine, I greatly prefer spending time on a snowy mountain to being stuck defending myself in arbitration, but it was worth standing up for what is right and I am glad the panel found that I did not breach any contract," said Warren Miller. "For WME to say or imply that they have exclusive rights to my name, personal endorsement, voice, and likeness for all endeavors is both legally false and totally absurd. I have not been involved with my old company's films in any capacity for many years now and I will not work with WME again."

Warren also announced the re-launch of the Warren Miller Company, an organization established two decades ago that, among other things, help support young entrepreneurs. "Now that the arbitration panel has reiterated that Warren is free to use his own name, likeness, voice, and brand in anything outside of ski movies, we are renewing and accelerating development of several ground-breaking projects within the ski industry and beyond," said Colin Kaufmann, Warren Miller Company CEO. "While it is unfortunate for Warren and for his fans that he will be unable to participate in ski films for the foreseeable future, we are excited to move forward with Warren to re-connect with many generations of friends and fans to foster his genuine legacy."


On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the much-discussed lawsuit between Warren Miller Entertainment (the film company) and Warren Miller (the man) over Miller's use of his name, likeness, voice and endorsement, came to a close, with WME coming out in favor.

In a statement issued today, Warren Miller Entertainment said: "Warren Miller Entertainment received a favorable ruling in an arbitration that sought to clarify rights surrounding the Warren Miller brand. The arbitration award, issued October 6, reaffirms WME's exclusive rights to the name, personal endorsement, voice and likeness of Warren Miller -- rights that WME purchased from Mr. Miller in agreements dating back to the sale of his film company to WME in 1988. WME has nothing but respect for Warren and his accomplishments. We at Warren Miller Entertainment have always had one objective -- to protect and honor the iconic Warren Miller brand. The arbitration decision preserves WME's rights to do so."

The case started in September 2009, when WME filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Level 1 Productions for the use of WME's registered Warren Miller trademarks in Level 1's 2009 film, "Refresh." Miller appeared throughout Level 1's film as a narrator. Soon after, Miller filed a motion to intervene in the case, claiming his rights of publicity allowed him to appear in "Refresh" and that previous contracts with WME that included a non-compete clause expired in 1999. Last October, WME requested to put the case with Level 1 on hold while the arbitration between Miller and WME ran its course. The court honored that request.

Miller's attorney at the Seattle law firm Black, Lowe and Graham, did not return ESPN's telephone call. But in a previous statement issued by Miller last fall, the 85-year-old filmmaker said, "The lawsuit that WME has filed against Josh Berman and Level 1 Productions is something that never should have happened. WME has no valid claim for trademark infringement, and that is why they are attempting to delay the action with Level 1 and go to arbitration with me. For Josh and Level 1, a stay of action only means that WME gets to put off their lawsuit, until the arbitration between them and me is finished."

Now that the one case is settled, it begs the question: Will WME now continue to pursue the lawsuit with Level 1? "We are optimistic and hopeful that we can come to a resolution with Level 1 quickly," Max Bervy, executive producer for WME, told ESPN Friday, "so that we both can focus our efforts on making and distributing ski films."