May 31, 2012 5:49pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Universal Lawsuit Sinks 'Battleship' Knockoff 'American Battleship'
Universal has settled a lawsuit over an unauthorized knockoff of its big-budget adventure movie Battleship. The Asylum, producer of a low-budget rip-off called American Battleship, has agreed to change the name of the film to American Warships and alter its marketing and packaging in exchange for Universal dropping the lawsuit.
The Asylum is somewhat notorious among Hollywood lawyers. It produces cheapo versions of big studio movies and distributes them via DVD, VOD and TV around the same time their "inspiration" films are being heavily marketed. Past titles include Transmorphers and Almighty Thor. Back in 2008, Fox threatened legal action against Asylum over The Day the Earth Stopped, which felt very similar to the studio's remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Universal sued in late April for copyright and trade dress infringement, claiming The Asylum had ripped off its movie and scheduled the release of American Battleship, starring Mario Van Peebles and Carl Weathers, on DVD within days of the May 18 release of the aliens-at-sea epic Battleship, based on a Hasbro board game that Universal paid a lot of money to license. The marketing for the two projects appeared to be very similar (that might be an understatement).
But sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the lawsuit prompted The Asylum to change the name of the movie and alter its marketing materials in advance of the film's release on DVD and VOD. American Warships also aired on Syfy -- the cabel channel owned, ironically, by Universal parent Comcast Corp. -- the day after Battleship was released in theaters.
Battleship has underwhelmed at the U.S. box office, but Universal can at least consider this case a small victory.
Universal and The Asylum declined comment.