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Patience is a virtue — just ask Claude Robinson, a Canadian plaintiff who prevailed to the tune of $4 million Canadian dollars ($3.7 million) in a copyright infringement suit with its roots in the 1980s.
After developing and pitching a children’s television show in the 1980s called “The Adventures of Robinson Curiosity,” based on the novel “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe, Mr. Robinson was shocked to see “Robinson Sucroë” pop up on television in 1995, which not only bore a striking resemblance to his idea but was produced by companies including Cinar Corp. and France Animation, which had access to his project.
Mr. Robinson sued in Quebec, Ontario, civil court.
After an 83-day trial including more than 40 witnesses, Mr. Robinson initially was awarded CA$5.2 million in damages, including CA$607,489 in compensatory damages, CA$1.7 million to disgorge profits, CA$400,000 for psychological harm, CA$1 million for punitive damages and CA$1.5 million in legal fees.
After an appeals court affirmed the ruling but reduced the damage award to just more than CA$2 million, the Supreme Court of Canada nearly doubled those damages back to CA$4 million.
Writing for the majority in the recent ruling, Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin reasoned that although the idea of a marooned man had been around for centuries and was arguably part of the public domain due to Mr. Defoe’s book, “the way Robinson expressed that idea" — the graphic appearance of characters, the personality of secondary characters and more — was the reason for protection.
“The product of Robinson’s artistic exertions was taken from him and the integrity of his personal creative process was violated, causing deep psychological suffering,” Judge McLaughlin wrote. “These harms are similar to those suffered by a victim of defamation.”