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Academy Sues Over "Deer Hunter" Oscar Statuette

By Tim Kenneally

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - A possibly counterfeit Oscars trophy for the 1978 film has sparked a very real lawsuit.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington state over an Oscar statuette that "was either a genuine statuette or a very convincing counterfeit."

If it's real, the trophy was the one awarded to Aaron Rochin for his sound work on the 1978 film "The Deer Hunter."

The Academy is suing Washington resident James Dunne, who sold the statue, and Edgard G. Francisco, who purchased it.

Dunne initially offered the statuette for sale on eBay in September but deleted the listing for fear that the Academy might discover it, according to the suit, which was filed last week. He later privately sold the statue of Florida resident Francisco for $25,000, the suit says.

The suit goes on to allege that after an appraisal, Francisco decided the statuette was fake and demanded a $15,000 refund. Dunne claims he provided a full refund. He also claims that he told Francisco that the trophy might not be authentic before he bought it.

Dunne told the Academy that he had either picked up the statuette at a moving sale or obtained it from a third party who got it at an estate sale.

After getting the refund, the suit says, Francisco threw the statuette away.

The Academy's suit is two-fold: If the trophy was real, the Academy is seeking restitution for the loss of its property; if it was fake, the Academy claims that the pair infringed on the organization's Oscars copyright.

The latter would seem to be the more probable scenario in this case. For one thing, the Academy says that the identification number for the statuette would place its manufacture in 1979, while the eBay auction billed it as a "Rare Pre-1950 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences OSCAR Statue Award!"

The Academy is asking for unspecified damages, plus suit costs and attorneys' fees.

(Pamela Chelin contributed to this report)

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