Court sets date for 'Watchmen'battle

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The battle between Fox and Warner Bros. over the rights to "Watchmen" took a big step toward resolution Tuesday when the federal judge presiding over the dispute set a Jan. 6 trial date for the case.

With a March release date looming, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess said Fox should forgo any attempt to get a preliminary injunction against Warners to stop the release of the film because the issues were far too complex to be resolved on an interim basis, sources said.

Instead, Feess told both sides to start building a factual record and start expedited discovery and depositions immediately.

Fox still could ask Feess to permanently enjoin Warners from releasing the film following the discovery phase.

Warners is set to release Zack Snyder's big-screen adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic series March 6.

At issue is whether Fox still holds the rights to "Watchmen." The studio sued Warners in February for copyright infringement and interference with its contract rights under a 1991 agreement between Fox and Largo Entertainment producer Larry Gordon.

Under that deal, Fox "quitclaimed" its right to "Watchmen" to Largo, with the understanding that if the production company proceeded with making a big-screen version, then the movie would be distributed by Fox. It later negotiated a "turnaround notice" with Gordon that established a buyout formula for the studio if Gordon wanted to buy out Fox's rights. But, according to Fox, Gordon failed to follow that deal.

Gordon negotiated a quitclaim contract with Warners in 2006, which it claims gave them the rights to "Watchmen." But Fox contends it retains the rights because of Gordon's failure to buy out the studio's rights. Warners said Fox gave up its rights in 1991. (partialdiff)
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