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Editor: D. A. Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

In re Seinfeld (Clancy v. King)

SeinfeldOh, how I have waited for this day!! For years, I have been relying on a scene from Seinfeld in which the Seinfeld character tries to return a jacket to a store because he dislikes the clerk who sold it to him. When asked the reason for his return, Jerry says, "Spite." It turns out, "spite" is not an acceptable grounds for returning an item. Jerry offers other, legitimate grounds for the return, but he said "spite," so it's too late. He is not permitted to return the jacket. I use this scene to illustrate any number of legal propositions, although I always had a nagging feeling that perhaps it wasn't really a very good illustration of any legal proposition. I just like the scene.

But now in Clancy v. King, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the author Tom Clancy would not be permitted to modify a limited partnership with his ex-wife to prohibit the venture from using Clancy's name if his motive for doing so was to punish his ex-wife. The court's authority for this decision, as Larry Ribstein explains in his Ideoblog, is the Seinfeld Wig Master episode featuring the very scene described above!! Ribstein quibbles with the court's reasoning, and he may be right, but there is a time and a place for everything. And this, my friends, is simply an occasion for rejoicing and. . . well. . . dancing:

[Jeremy Telman]

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