It is fair to say that in a pop culture era defined by 1980s nostalgia, Netflix’s Stranger Things probably reigns supreme as the ultimate love letter to the Reagan years. Seemingly coming out of nowhere in 2016, the series created by the Duffer Brothers has turned into the crown jewel of the streaming service, as well as a series so successful that its child actors have seen their salaries increase for season 3 by a multiple of 12. So it is a rich setup… and one that is now being accused of theft of concept and “a breach of implied contract.” A claim which Alex Kohner, the attorney representing the Duffer Brothers, has now dismissed as “meritless” on Wednesday.
Filmmaker Charlie Kessler alleged in a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon that Matt and Ross Duffer (the Duffer Brothers) stole his ideas for a fictional tale about a town plagued by supernatural weirdness and oddities, specifically around the village of Montauk in New York’s Long Island (the original setting for Stranger Things).
As according to Kessler’s attorney, who filed the lawsuit to the Supreme Court of California, Kessler is claiming that the Duffer Brothers breached an “implied contract” after his client pitched the concept of a science fiction film set in a small town near an abandoned military base at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. The lawsuit alleges the idea for Stranger Things derives from Kessler’s own short film “Montauk,” which was produced in 2011 and led Kessler to writing the screenplay for the as yet unproduced feature film version of the concept, The Montauk Project.
However, the Duffers’ own lawyer fired back today with a succinct and terse rebuttal to the claim, which would certainly indicate that the litigation conflict is only beginning.
“Mr. Kessler’s claim is completely meritless,” the Duffers’ legal representation said. “He had no connection to the creation or development of ‘Stranger Things.’ The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr. Kessler’s short film nor discussed any project with him. This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work.”
As alleged in Kessler’s lawsuit (which we found available via The Hollywood Reporter), “This action arises from Defendants’ misappropriation, unauthorized use and exploitation of Plaintiff’s protected work, ideas, and concepts for an innovative short film entitled Montauk, and a feature film script entitled The Montauk Project… resulting from Defendants’ unexcused breach of implied contract that existed between Plaintiff and Defendants.”
The lawsuit goes on to claim, “Stranger Things was initially sold as a show entitled The Montauk Project (the name of Plaintiff’s film) and initially the show was repeatedly referred to as The Montauk Project, before its name was changed to Stranger Things.”
Kessler is seeking an injunction that would force the Duffers to stop using his alleged concepts and to destroy all materials based on those concepts. There is also a demand for lost profits, restitution, and punitive damages.
Netflix did not respond to Den of Geek‘s inquiries for a comment.