Penthouse Files IP Suit; Omni Magazine to Restart

Penthouse Files IP Suit; Omni Magazine to Restart
Rhett Pardon

LOS ANGELES — Penthouse Global Media CEO Kelly Holland told XBIZ tonight that the basis for the company’s recent intellectual property lawsuit against Jerrick Media Holdings and its principals is “clear and unambiguous.”

“We hold the trademarks for both ‘Caligula’ and Omni [magazine],” she said. “Our intellectual property is the nucleus of our brand, and I am fiercely protective of that.”

Penthouse this week filed a federal lawsuit against Jerrick Media and its principals, claiming they have infringed on copyrights and trademarks involving the movie "Caligula" and Omni magazine.

Penthouse attorneys said that the defendants named in the suit have been renting and selling “Caligula” on Vimeo.com and using its copyrights and trademarks to do so, and that they have infringed on the registered Omni trademark by operating the Omni.media website.

Holland tonight revealed a nugget of information that solidifies the company’s continued ownership of the Omni brand — Penthouse will restart Omni magazine in print.

“We will publish our first issue of Omni in October of this year, and Omni will become the center of our universe — and popular conversation — once again,” Holland told XBIZ.

“Caligula,” a cult classic that blends ancient Roman history with erotica and stars luminaries including Helen Mirren and Peter O'Toole, was produced in 1979 by Bob Guccione, the founder and former publisher of Penthouse Magazine and the founder of the iconic Penthouse brand. 

Guccione also was one of the founders and the publisher of the science and science-fiction magazine Omni, which was first published in 1978.

Guccione died in 2010, and last year Holland, who served as the adult entertainment company’s president, purchased Penthouse and its related properties, including its intellectual property involving “Caligula” and Omni.

Penthouse counsel said that Jerrick Media’s principals, defendants Jeremy Frommer and Rick Schwartz, disregarded Penthouse’s intellectual property rights and started selling “Caligula” on Vimeo and began planning to publish an online science magazine using the Omni trademarks and to republish and sell archival material from the original magazine.

Penthouse attorneys noted that Jerrick Media filed an application for registration of the purported trademark Omni Reboot and that they are seeking to have its mark canceled in a separate legal case.

"At no time has Penthouse or any affiliated entity ever transferred or licensed any of its copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property to any of the defendants for any purpose," according to the complaint, filed at Los Angeles federal court.

Holland tonight told XBIZ that as Penthouse enters its second year under new ownership, the company’s driving principle is to put all of the pieces of the brand back together again.  

“As a result of decades of neglect, much of this company’s brilliant legacy was lost … until now,” Holland said.

“I am proud to announce that one of those casualties, Omni — the magazine of science and science fiction, heralded as one of Guccione’s most iconic brands — is once again a part of the Penthouse family where it belongs,” she said.

“Thanks largely to Pamela Weintraub, one of Omni’s original editors who had the foresight to bring the brand back to life by re-registering the trademarks and launching a digital site, she, along with many of the original Omni staff, will deliver the award-winning magazine to newsstands once again."

Holland went on to say that as a magazine publisher, she understands the value in acquiring Omni and believes the timing is perfect to go back into print.  

“In the 1980s, Omni captured the zeitgeist of a culture that was enthralled with science and its possibilities — one that explored and obsessed over the magic put forth in reality-bending films like ‘Alien’ and ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Blade Runner,’ and the technological boon that brought us the space shuttle, flip phones and flourishing test-tube babies.

“Here we stand in that moment again — in an era of ‘alternative facts’ and climate change deniers, evolution skeptics and flat earthers and the science of wonder is more relevant and urgent than ever. Today, scientists and geeks are the rockstars of popular culture. Science fiction continues to be our collective obsession and, given Moore’s Law, the intersection of fantasy and science is closer than ever."

But Holland said that with all relaunches, “there are a few labor pains that come in the form of alleged trademark infringers Jerrick Media and its lead partner Jeremy Frommer, who have been acting as the owners of the Omni and 'Caligula' trademarks because they happened upon a treasure trove of lost memorabilia when they acquired one of Bob Guccione’s forgotten storage lockers a few years back.”

“We at Penthouse don’t believe a person can acquire the rights to a brand simply by stumbling upon some of its products,” Holland said. “If you buy a DC comic book at a garage sale it doesn’t give you the rights to make a 'Wonder Woman' movie, nor does one have a right to our legacy because they found an old Omni magazine.”

Jerrick Media issued a statement in response to Penthouse's claims: "The company believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend against it."

Penthouse’s lawsuit seeks damages, including treble damages, and punitive damages, as well as a restraining order prohibiting Jerrick Media, along with Frommer and Schwartz, from any future unauthorized use of Penthouse's property.

Penthouse also seeks a judicial declaration that recognizes the legitimacy of Penthouse's copyrights and trademarks for “Caligula” and Omni.

Related: