The Butler loses legal battle to keep film title

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 3 July 2013
Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker

Historical drama 'The Butler' will be forced to change its title after it was ruled rival studio Warner Bros. owns the rights to the name

The Weinstein Company will have to rename its upcoming movie 'The Butler'.

The film studio has lost its legal battle with rivals Warner Bros. to keep the title of its upcoming Lee Daniels-directed historical drama, following a Title Registration Bureau ruling confirming Warner Bros. owns the rights to it because of their 1916 silent comedy short of the same name.

According to, during an arbitration yesterday (02.07.13) in the MPAA's Los Angeles offices, the arbitrator said: "TWC made continuous use of the unregistered title 'The Butler' in willful violation of the TRB rules."

The Weinstein Company - spearheaded by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein - was told it had until midnight last night to remove the word 'Butler' from all marketing and promotional material relating to the Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey-starring film.

However, the studio has now filed an appeal and are hoping to launch a lawsuit against Warner Bros., claiming the studio is trying to make a profit from TWC in exchange for the use of the title.

Attorney David Boies issued a statement reading: "The suggestion that there is a danger of confusion between TWC's 2013 feature movie and a 1917 short that has not been shown in theatres, television, DVDs, or in any other way for almost a century makes no sense. The award has no purpose except to restrict competition and is contrary to public policy."

'The Butler' also stars Jane Fonda, Robin Williams and Alan Rickman and has already been hotly-tipped for next year's Oscars ahead of its August 2013 release date.

The movie is based on the story of real-life White House butler Eugene Allen, who served eight different presidents during his tenure.

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