Firm History

Highlights from the firm's 56 years in Los Angeles include:

1954

The firm is founded as Youngman & Leopold by two transactional attorneys, Gordon Youngman and A. Fredric Leopold, both formerly of the prestigious law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, at different times.  Early clients include RKO Pictures and Walt Disney Productions.

1955

The firm plays an important role in providing legal work for the development of Disneyland.  A second story window on Disneyland’s Main Street still bears the name, “Youngman & Leopold.”

1955

Richard Hungate (formerly with David O. Selznick Productions) joins the firm, which is renamed Youngman, Hungate & Leopold.  The firm adds to its client list RKO General, Inc. and its broadcasting divisions KHJ-TV, KHJ-AM, and K-EARTH.  The firm regularly represents General Film Laboratories.

1965

Louis Petrich joins the firm.

1972

Robert Myers, formerly at NBC, becomes “of counsel” to the firm and helps the firm develop an entertainment insurance practice through its representation of Chubb/Pacific Indemnity Insurance, the larger of the two major insurance companies then writing Errors & Omissions policies for studios, production companies and television stations.  The firm expands its practice from transactional entertainment work to include the defense of these insureds in litigation in the field of intellectual property (copyright infringement; defamation; right of privacy; trademark; breach of contract; and related claims).

1976

The firm represents Farrah Fawcett in her famous contract dispute with Spelling/Goldberg Productions when Fawcett leaves Charlie’s Angels.  The case is ultimately resolved in the middle of trial.

1978

Joel Smith joins the firm.

1979

Edward Ruttenberg and Vincent Cox join the firm.

1978-80

The firm defends Universal City Studios and Glen Larson against the copyright infringement suit brought by Twentieth Century-Fox and Lucasfilm that alleges that Battlestar Galactica infringes the motion picture Star Wars.  The district court grants summary judgment for defendants.  On appeal, the case is remanded for trial.  Glen Larson is hired by Fox. The case is ultimately resolved without trial.

1980

Gordon Youngman and Richard Hungate retire.

1983

Donald Gordon joins the firm.

1985

Walter Sadler joins the firm.

1985

The firm is renamed Leopold, Petrich & Smith.

1986

Daniel Mayeda joins the firm.

1984-88

The firm successfully defends before a jury and on appeal to the Ninth Circuit the makers of the Steven Spielberg motion picture E.T., the Extraterrestrial against a copyright infringement action that alleges that the well-known main theme composed by John Williams infringes a work written by composer Les Baxter.  The firm also successfully defends four other copyright claims brought against the motion picture.

1982-88

The firm successfully defends before a jury and on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Stephen Cannell Productions and MCA Television against a copyright infringement action that alleges that the popular television series The A-Team violates the rights in plaintiffs’ story.

1986-93

The firm represents Jimmy Stewart, the Estate of Alfred Hitchcock, Universal City Studios and others in the Central District Court and Ninth Circuit, and before the United States Supreme Court in a copyright infringement action brought by the successor-in-interest to the rights of Cornell Woolrich, author of the short story on which the Hitchcock motion picture Rear Window was based.  The case results in the landmark copyright case of Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990), which established the  famous “Abend rule” regarding ownership of copyright renewal rights when the author of an underlying work dies before commencement of the renewal term, a decision significantly impacting the rights of producers of works derived from the deceased author’s underlying work.

1989-91

The firm is retained as appellate counsel after a trial court determines that the iconic OSCAR statuette is in the public domain.  The firm secures reversal of this decision on appeal, thereby reinstating copyright and trademark protection for the statuette, in AMPAS v. Creative House, 944 F.2d 1446 (9th Cir. 1991).

1992

Robert Gutierrez joins the firm.

1994

The firm prevails in an en banc hearing before the Ninth Circuit in the case of Subafilms, Ltd. v. MGM-Pathe Comm. Co., 24 F.3d 1088 (9th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (Yellow Submarine), thereby establishing important limitations on the extraterritorial reach of the United States Copyright Act.

1997

Loralee Sundra joins the firm.

2000

The firm secures trial and appellate victories for the Self-Realization Fellowship Church (founded by the Paramahansa Yogananda) regarding a copyright issue of first impression. Self-Realization Fellowship Church v. Ananda Church of Self-Realization, 206 F.3d 1322 (9th Cir. 2000).

2006-07

The firm successfully defends and supervises numerous lawsuits filed against the controversial film, Borat, distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox. 

2007

Abigail Jones and Nicholas Morgan join the firm

2008

Jamie Frieden and Elizabeth Schilken join the firm.

2009

The firm and Dallas co-counsel successfully defend before a jury in Texas and on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Tyler Perry and Lionsgate Films against claims that the Perry motion picture, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, infringed the copyright in plaintiff’s stage play.

2009

Eva Neuberg joins the firm.