Intellectual property law is a fascinating topic.

In a nutshell, what it means is that you can’t take someone else’s creation and market it as your own. That could include anything from a cylinder head design to a comic book character, and the legal world has distinct protections for those things, in the form of patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

In other words, you can’t print Bart Simpson on a t-shirt and sell it; nor can you record a rock concert, print it to DVD, and sell it without the permission from the copyright/trademark/patent owner.

And that “permission” usually costs money.

1968 Ford Mustang Eleanor tribute
Though not produced by Shelby American, this particular Mustang here could have run into legal entanglements too. Click here to see more of this awesome Eleanor tribute. (Image/Todd Kaminski – Maguire Photo)

That brings us to the curious case of Eleanor.

We’re talking about the famous movie car(s) that raced through several films, most notably the 2000 remake of “Gone in 60 Seconds” starring Nicholas Cage.

The original 1974 movie was produced by H.B. “Toby” Halicki, who passed away in 1989. His surviving wife, Denise Halicki, was an executive producer for the aforementioned 2000 remake and retains the rights to the characters used in it, and all of the earlier Halicki films.

And it was Denise Halicki who argued that, since Eleanor was a famous character, it was subject to the same legal protections as any other intellectual property.

Under that premise, she worked to halt other high-profile Eleanor tribute builds and kicked off a long legal battle between Shelby American over the right to produce 1967 Shelby GT500s.

While most recall the 2000 remake’s 1967 GT500, in the original “Gone in 60 Seconds,” Eleanor is actually a 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof, which interestingly enough, impacted the Court’s ruling here. Keep reading to see what we’re talking about.

Long is no understatement either—the ensuing legal fight took years to work its way through Court. But the verdict is now in: Shelby won.

Among other things, the Court felt that applying a name to a car wasn’t enough to secure a copyright and the fact that the specific Eleanor hero car wasn’t a consistent year/make/model throughout every Halicki movie didn’t help.

You can see the whole Press Release from Shelby American here; it’s a good read.

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