By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK - The creators of "Better Call Saul" on Tuesday asked a U.S. judge to dismiss Liberty Tax Service's lawsuit objecting to an episode of the hit crime drama, saying the case "stretches the reach of trademark and defamation laws beyond their breaking point."
Liberty Tax had sued AMC Networks Inc and Sony Pictures Television Inc over the depiction of "Sweet Liberty Tax Services" in the April 18, 2022 episode "Carrot and Stick."
The title character Saul Goodman, a shady lawyer also known as Jimmy McGill, was shown visiting Sweet Liberty in the New Mexico desert.
Sweet Liberty was housed in a trailer featuring a Statute of Liberty inflatable and American flag motif, and used by former Goodman clients Craig and Betsy Kettleman to skim tax refunds.
Liberty Tax said the depiction misled viewers into thinking Sweet Liberty was one of its more than 2,500 offices.
But AMC and Sony said the episode was "fully protected" by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, and that it was implausible for viewers to believe Liberty Tax engaged in tax fraud or had anything to do with the Kettlemans.
"If plaintiff's allegations are to be believed that the episode somehow defames plaintiff by portraying it as a criminal enterprise, no viewer would assume that plaintiff would ever endorse or approve such a portrayal," the defendants' lawyers wrote.
Lawyers for Liberty Tax, which is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and triple damages.
"Better Call Saul" starred Bob Odenkirk as the title character, and was a prequel to the series "Breaking Bad." It finished its six-season run last August.
The case is JTX Tax LLC v AMC Networks Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-06526.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis)