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Startups Entrepreneur loses bid to sue CBC over Dragons’ Den appearance

Dragons’ Den cast, from left: Jim Treliving, Kevin O'Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec, Bruce Croxon.

CBC image

A Montreal board game designer who sued the CBC over an episode of Dragons' Den has lost his attempt to have his case heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The province's top court said Marc Ribeiro, president of MHR Board Game Design Inc., had no grounds to sue the CBC for "gross and reckless negligence, intentional misconduct, malice and bad faith" over an unflattering portrayal on the program.

The release form, the court said, specifies that Mr. Ribeiro will not sue the show and gives the program the right to edit his portrayal however it wants even if it is "disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavourable nature which may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation."

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In a ruling Tuesday, the appeal court said the conduct Mr. Ribeiro complained about "falls squarely within the terms of the release" and was not outside of the scope of the form.

Mr. Ribeiro pitched board game Pick N Choose, which requires players to guess a clue using charades, drawings or props. One Dragon used modelling clay to make a penis during the show, and fellow Dragon Arlene Dickinson laughingly suggested Mr. Ribeiro should turn it into "an adult game."

Mr. Ribeiro, who is also a lawyer, complained about an introductory voice-over that said the "Dragons never pull punches when they spot a money-losing venture. Unfortunately, these next few ideas hit the mat immediately."

He argued the wording and the editing gave the impression his proposal was a "complete flop" when the panel actually expressed initial interest in his board game.

In an earlier ruling, Ontario Superior Court Judge David Aston said "it was not self-evident" the program did misrepresent his sales pitch because although the Dragons expressed interest in his game and enjoyed playing it, "at the same time it was clear that they were unwilling to invest in its commercial viability."

The appeal court ruling noted the decision is consistent with a ruling in 2011 in which John Turmel was also told he had no right to sue the CBC over his portrayal on Dragons' Den after he was mocked for his business pitch to create a program to use poker chips from a local casino as currency at local businesses in Brantford, Ont.

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