The porn family feud that played out in federal court this week ended in a draw Friday when a jury ruled that Larry Flynt's estranged nephews infringed on their famous uncle's trademark when they launched their own smut business, but did not invade his privacy and were not liable for the substantial attorney fees both sides rang up.
The jury of four men and four women rendered its verdict after a four-day trial, during which they sat next to a big-screen TV that was used to repeatedly display blown-up photos of porn DVD boxes featuring naked women on the front and people engaged in all sorts of contortions on the back.
They listened as Flynt, who was paralyzed when he was shot by a white-supremacist sniper in 1978, sat in his gold-plated, velvet-lined wheelchair on Tuesday and Wednesday and testified that in the porn business his name stands for quality. His nephews, he said, were besmirching it by putting that name on "trashy" adult movies.
"The junk they publish hurts my reputation, which in turn hurts my revenue," the gruff, gravelly voiced porn king testified.
As both sides debated what constitutes an elegant sex film as opposed to a trashy one, jurors sat stone-faced, observing posters for films with titles like "Hot Showers" and "Sex at Your Service."
After about three hours of deliberations Friday, they concluded that Flynt's nephews, Jimmy Flynt Jr. and his brother, Dustin Flynt, did indeed infringe on their uncle's trademark when they produced films with just the word "FLYNT" in large capital letters above the titles.
At the same time, the jury rejected Flynt's contention that his nephews invaded his privacy, a ruling their attorney, Dan DeCarlo, said holds Flynt responsible for all attorney fees.
Overall, both sides claimed victory.
Flynt's attorney, Mark Hoffman, said all his client wanted was to maintain his good name in the porn community, adding that he never asked the jury for monetary damages.
"This has been very hard on Mr. Flynt," he said. "He never wanted to go this far. All he wanted to do was the right thing."
Meanwhile, Jimmy Flynt Jr. said he has already launched a new Web site that he believes meets the requirements of the jury's ruling. Called flyntnation.com, it contains both his and his brother's first names, as well as the disclaimer, "Larry Flynt is not affiliated with and does not endorse this."
"No one wins in this thing," said Jimmy Jr., who bears a striking resemblance to his square-jawed uncle. "It's sad that the family is in this dispute, but we felt strongly that we should be allowed to use our name in our business."
The nephews launched their own company after their uncle fired them from executive positions at Larry Flynt Publications in November 2007. Jimmy Jr., 37, had worked there for 17 years, starting in the mailroom. His 34-year-old brother had been there 10 years.
"I felt they were doing a horrible job," their 67-year-old uncle testified.
Larry Flynt, who started in the porn business more than 40 years ago, owns Hustler magazine and other publications, operates Internet sites and retail stores, produces films, owns pricey real estate and even markets a line of clothing.
Although his privately held company is said to be worth tens of millions of dollars, he fired his nephews' father, Jimmy Flynt Sr., last year, saying he needed to save money to sue Jimmy Sr.'s sons.
"I told him that this lawsuit was going to be expensive to finance it, and the only way I could was to not have him working for the company," Flynt testified during the trial.