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Benjamin Katz isn’t a surfer. But the entertainment and IP associate at Greenberg Traurig plans to add an imposing piece of d�cor to his Los Angeles office — a custom-made board that comes with its own Hollywood connection. The board — all eight feet, six inches of it — is a replica of the one that was featured in Francis Coppola’s epic Vietnam movie “Apocalypse Now.” But the story of how Katz came to acquire the board includes elements of creative IP work that easily match the creativity of the film itself. It all started after Katz watched the 2001 “director’s cut” version of the film that was originally released in 1979. The expanded version included scenes in which Robert Duvall, playing the swaggering Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, orders his soldiers to go surfing in the midst of battle. Katz also noticed that Kilgore’s board sported the logo of Santa Barbara’s Yater Surfboards. The absurdity of surfing in the middle of a combat zone struck Katz as an apt metaphor for the practice of law. “You have an objective and you accomplish it despite being under mortar fire,” he says. “The board kind of symbolized the insanity of it all.” And so it was that Katz was prompted to call Yater and ask about buying one of Kilgore’s boards. That’s when he learned that Yater had never made such a board and, further, that Coppola and his film company, American Zoetrope, had never asked permission to use the Yater logo in the movie. “They asked me if they could sue for infringement,” says Katz. Rather than filing a lawsuit, Katz suggested to Yater that they produce a series of “special edition” boards — replicas of the red-and-black model that appeared in the movie. “A good IP attorney will not only identify and protect your valuable intellectual property but will proactively help you identify and capitalize on your IP assets,” says Katz. He approached Coppola’s outside attorneys to work out a licensing deal but got nowhere at first. “When you talk to the transactional attorneys, they automatically think you want to sue them,” says Katz. But things improved after he got in touch with Giselle Galper, an attorney who was working as Coppola’s in-house counsel. In effect, Katz negotiated a licensing swap. In lieu of Coppola paying Yater, retroactively, for the use of its logo in the movie, the director agreed to allow the surfboard maker to use the design of Kilgore’s board for its own limited-edition model. Katz, meanwhile, had his own designs on a charitable component to the surfboard matter. His pro bono work for Yater included an agreement under which the company would provide him with several of the “Apocalypse Now” surfboards. Katz, in turn, has arranged to auction off the boards (autographed by “Apocalypse Now” co-star Martin Sheen) as a benefit for a group that helps veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Katz says he was moved to help the group out of a desire to honor his father, who suffered from the disorder and died on the day his son graduated from law school. Completing the picture, the group — Outward Bound for Veterans — was started by Robert Rheault, a retired Vietnam-era Green Beret officer who reportedly provided some of the biographical basis for Marlon Brando’s character, Col. Walter Kurtz, in “Apocalypse Now.” Andrew Simons is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles.

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