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Legal Battle Breaks Out Over 'Doctor Who' Independent

A legal battle has erupted over the BBC series "Doctor Who," and at the center of the dispute is a time-traveling device that is a key player on the show.

The U.K.'s Independent reports that Stef Coburn, a son of the writer of the first "Doctor Who" episode, is claiming the BBC is in breach of copyright for the use of the TARDIS -- the blue police box that serves as the Doctor's time-traveling vehicle. The story reports that Coburn wants the company to pay up or stop using it.

"Stef Coburn claims that upon his father's death, any informal permission his father gave the BBC to use his work expired and the copyright of all of his ideas passed to his widow, Joan. Earlier this year she passed it on to him," the story reports.

Coburn told the publication that he remembered his father, Tony Coburn, speaking with his family about the creation at the dinner table, telling them, "Get a load of this, boys: TARDIS. Time and Relative Dimension in Space." Tony Coburn wrote "An Unearthly Child," the series' first episode, which includes the TARDIS.

"It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of 'Doctor Who' fans (of whom I was never one) of any aspect of their favourite children's program. The only ends I wish to accomplish, by whatever lawful means present themselves, involve bringing about the public recognition that should by rights always have been his due, of my father James Anthony Coburn's seminal contribution to 'Doctor Who,' and proper lawful recompense to his surviving estate," Stef Coburn said.

The BBC said it is looking into Coburn's complaint. It added that there haven't been challenges to the copyright since the BBC registered it in the 1980s. Coburn said if he had owned the rights then, he would have taken action.

His father reportedly came up with the idea after walking on Wimbledon Common and seeing two blue police boxes. "Struck by the alien sight, he says, Coburn was inspired to make them the physical basis of his fantastical machine," the piece notes.

tardis-doctor-who.jpg"Doctor Who's" TARDIS