Plaintiff in Kung Fu Panda IP Case Sentenced to Two Years for Fraud

Plaintiff in Kung Fu Panda IP Case Sentenced to Two Years for Fraud.The man who unsuccessfully sued DreamWorks Animation in 2011, claiming to be the creator of the animated movie “Kung Fu Panda,” has been sentenced to two years in prison for his conviction on federal wire fraud and perjury charges.[1] Jayme Gordon’s sentence also includes a requirement that he pay more than $3 million in restitution[2] and a recommendation that he be held at a prison hospital where he can receive psychiatric care and treatment for alcohol abuse.[3]

As we previously wrote, aspiring animator Gordon filed a copyright-infringement suit against DreamWorks Animation for the $630 million blockbuster and sought a $12 million settlement, which the studio rejected.[4] Gordon’s claim managed to survive the studio’s summary-judgment motion.[5]

But as trial was looming and DreamWorks was out $3 million in defending itself, Gordon agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice on the discovery that his allegedly copyrighted sketches[6] looked like ones from a Disney coloring book printed years before he registered his copyright.[7]

Last November, a federal jury found Gordon guilty on charges of wire fraud and perjury, and prosecutors sought a five-year sentence for Gordon’s fabricating and backdating drawings of pandas like the ones in the DreamWorks film.[8] Prosecutors said that Gordon’s revised pandas had been traced from a 1996 coloring book[9] and that a 2008 trailer for the film inspired his scheme.[10]

Gordon continues to maintain his innocence and even insisted that the story lines of “The Lion King” and “A Bug’s Life” were his, leading U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris to wonder whether Gordon suffered from undiagnosed mental health disorders and whether that should play any role in deciding his punishment.[11]

His family wrote the judge, recounting Gordon’s hospitalization for depression and detailing emotional trauma that included one brother dying from an accident, another brother dying from a heart attack, and a sister who was murdered.[12] Gordon reportedly has a history of bipolar disorder and neuropsychological defects.[13] His lawyer said learning disabilities and mental illness were underlying factors, adding that an insanity defense “as a practical matter doesn’t exist” because of the high burden it would place on Gordon to prove his insanity and that he could not know right from wrong after prosecutors proved a scheme to defraud.[14]

A DreamWorks representative provided a victim impact statement on behalf of the employees who created the “Kung Fu Panda” storyline, saying the employees felt that their talent was being attacked and that they wasted their time dealing with this case.[15] The prosecution had sought a five-year sentence, arguing that the longer sentence would deter others from falsely claiming copyright infringement and noting that intellectual property is highly susceptible to such claims.[16]

Gordon has not decided whether to appeal his trial conviction.[17] But his lawyer, who had recommended probation with the condition that Gordon seek psychiatric care, welcomed the judge’s decision and noted that it was below sentencing guidelines.[18]

For more on federal wire fraud, perjury, and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, check out the new O’Connor’s Federal Criminal Rules & Codes Plus (2017), available for purchase now in our online store.

For the latest on copyright law, O’Connor’s Federal Intellectual Property Codes Plus 2017-2018  is now available—visit our online store to order your copy!


[1] Valencia, Man Who Claimed to Write ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sentenced to Prison, Boston Globe, May 3, 2017.

[2] Raymond, Massachusetts Man Gets 2 Years in Prison for ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Fraud, Reuters, May 3, 2017.

[3] Valencia, Man Who Claimed to Write ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sentenced to Prison.

[4] Plaintiff in Kung Fu Panda IP Case Charged with Wire Fraud and Perjury, O’Connor’s Annotations, Feb. 5, 2016.

[5] Id.

[6] Gordon’s 2011 lawsuit reveals that around 1990, he had sent portfolios of sketches inspired by Boston’s Chinatown to The Walt Disney Company and DreamWorks, and was photographed while meeting Disney CEO Michael Eisner at Disney World. Saul, Man Who Claimed to Create ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison, Newsweek, May 4, 2017.

[7] Plaintiff in Kung Fu Panda IP Case Charged with Wire Fraud and Perjury, O’Connor’s Annotations.

[8] Raymond, Massachusetts Man Gets 2 Years in Prison for ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Fraud.

[9] Connor, Skadoosh! Man Who Claimed He Created ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Gets Two Years in Prison, NBC News, May 3, 2017.

[10] Valencia, Man Who Claimed to Write ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sentenced to Prison.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Raymond, Massachusetts Man Gets 2 Years in Prison for ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Fraud.

[18] Valencia, Man Who Claimed to Write ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sentenced to Prison.

flickr photo by pHotosHo0x is licensed under CC by 2.0

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