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The Stranger Things idea-theft lawsuit is headed to trial

Photo: Tina Rowden (Netflix)

Bad news for Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer today, as a California judge has shut down their attempts to dismiss a pending lawsuit against them in a burst of late-in-the-season, deus ex machina-y superpowers. Specifically, The Hollywood Reporter notes that Los Angeles judge Michael Stern has shot down the Duffers’ request for a summary judgment against filmmaker Charlie Kessler, stating that the duo have failed to definitively prove that there’s no merit to Kessler’s claims—first brought forward last year—that the brothers lifted ideas from his short film “Montauk” in the creation of their beloved Netflix show.

All of which means that Stranger Things is likely headed to court next month, where Kessler will attempt to make his case that a conversation he had with the duo at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014—in which they discussed their shared interest in the alleged paranormal activity surrounding a disused military research station on Long Island, and in which the Duffers reportedly told Kessler “they should work together”—provided a meaningful basis for the world of Hawkins, IN, and constituted enough of a binding agreement to entitle him to a third of the blockbuster show’s profits.

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Honestly, though, it sounds like the Duffers (and their benefactors at Netflix) are less worried about the merits of Kessler’s case—which also points out that Montauk was the streaming series’ original working name—than they are on what sort of spoilers or embarrassing or compromising dirt the trial might dig up or expose. Per THR:

The Duffers have already brought a motion to seal portions of the trial because of the prospect of highly confidential information. In a court brief this week, an attorney for the Duffers told the judge that “public disclosure threatens substantial harm not only to their legitimate privacy interests, but also as to their ongoing commercial efforts, including by revealing confidential information that may be included in future episodes of Stranger Things and weakening the Duffers’ (and Netflix’s) position in future commercial negotiations.”

Netflix, is, of course, famously government-conspiracy-level-secret about its inner workings, especially when it comes to numbers; correspondingly, the company has lodged its own separate declaration into the case, asking the judge not to disclose any of its private information in the course of the trial. Kessler, meanwhile, is seeking not only profit information, but also details of another accusation of idea theft against the Duffers, who his attorney says were also once accused of lifting ideas from a former roommate for their 2015 film Hidden.

UPDATE: Netflix has released a statement in response to the suite.

The Duffer Brothers have our full support. This case has no merit, which we look forward to being confirmed by a full hearing of the facts in court

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