LeVar Burton is being sued for using a catchphrase coined during his tenure as the host of Reading Rainbow on his own podcast. Standing as the fourth-longest running children’s series in the history of PBS, Reading Rainbow began under the auspices of WNED-TV Buffalo, New York. Designed as a means to encourage literacy among young children, the show ran for 21 seasons between 1983 and 2006.
Over the course of its time on the air, Reading Rainbow garnered plenty of critical acclaim, and was a recipient of the Peabody Award and 26 Emmys – 11 of which were received in the “Outstanding Children’s Series” category. Hosted by Burton since the beginning, a licensing agreement for the property was obtained by Burton and his RRKidz company following its series finale on PBS. In 2012, Burton and RRKidz released the Reading Rainbow App to continue the show’s legacy, and in 2014 a Kickstarter campaign expanded the reach of the subscription based service to classrooms and disadvantaged school districts. However, not everyone was happy about Burton’s appropriation of the property.
According to THR, an ongoing legal battle between WNED and RRKidz has now resulted in Burton being sued over the use of the Reading Rainbow catchphrase, “But you don’t have to take my word for it,” on his own podcast, LeVar Burton Reads. Dating back to initial filings over the rights to the Reading Rainbow property from several years back, the latest development in the ongoing legal battle between WNED and Burton was explained as follows by the public broadcaster:
“As evidenced by Mr. Burton’s conduct since he began ‘teasing’ the public about the return of Reading Rainbow years before his company acquired any rights to do so, Mr. Burton’s goal is to control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow’s substantial goodwill — goodwill that unquestionably belongs to WNED.”
Citing Burton for, “Copyright infringement, conversion, cybersquatting, violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract, and interference with customer relations,” the latest filing against Burton by WNED carries significant weight. Going so far as to describe his podcast as, “A Reading Rainbow for adults,” it’s easy to see why WNED is so intent on debating the issue.
Whether or not anything more will come to light in the latest legal development between WNED and Burton remains to be seen. Either way, the lawsuit certainly puts a damper on the Reading Rainbow franchise overall.
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