Mr. Sinus, an Austin sketch-comedy group that skewers movies at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, is under attack.
Best Brains Inc., the company that owns the TV show “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” has sued the Mr. Sinus group, alleging that it is infringing on the “Mystery Science” trademark by using its format. Mr. Sinus comedians Jeremy Pollet, Owen Egerton and John Erler, and Alamo South Lamar LP have been named in the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court.
The problem, according to Best Brains, is that Mr. Sinus takes its format from “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” also known as MST3K or MST 3000 — abbreviations the lawsuit says can also apply to Mr. Sinus Theater.
The TV show, which ran from 1988 through 1999 but was shown in reruns until January, features the silhouettes of three figures who sit at the front of a theater and interject satirical comments during movies.
The TV show is appropriate for viewers of all ages, the lawsuit states, unlike Mr. Sinus, which the lawsuit describes as vulgar. One Mr. Sinus performance skewered “Nude on the Moon,” which featured nudity. The comedians have also targeted commercially successful movies such as “Dirty Dancing” and “Top Gun.”
Best Brains says the trouble began when it asked Alamo representatives to show episodes “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
“Alamo then approached Pollet with the idea to create a comedic group in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000,” according to the lawsuit. “Pollet, Egerton and Erler then formed Mr. Sinus and premiered in September 2000.”
The lawsuit notes that the Alamo group continues to stage Mr. Sinus shows even after Best Brains refused to provide them with a license. The company also says that it asked the comedians to stop using Mr. Sinus Theater 3000 or any similar name.
Unlike Star Bock Beer, this is a case where I can pretty easily see people being legitimately confused. I hope both sides can come to a resolution before the depositions start flying, but I think the plaintiff has a pretty decent argument, and I say that as a Mr. Sinus fan.
UPDATE: Liz thinks that Best Brains is wrong to sue the Mr. Sinus folks.