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Hasbro Inc. is not in the mood to play games.
On Monday, the toy company filed a lawsuit against producer Courtney Solomon‘s Sweetpea Entertainment, alleging that it has no right to make a new film that exploits its “Dungeons and Dragons” brand. Read the lawsuit here.
Solomon produced the 2000 film version of Dungeons and Dragons and is reportedly working with Warner Bros. on another Dungeons & Dragons movie. That film is based on Chainmail, a board game from Dungeons & Dragons designer Gary Gygax.
But Hasbro has also been reported to have licensed a Dungeons & Dragons reboot to Universal Studios. So the company and its Wizards of the Coast subsidiary has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sweetpea that seeks a declaration that it owns rights to the property and an injunction to stop the planned Warner Bros. film.
Warner Bros. is not a defendant in the lawsuit which also asserts false designation of origin, unfair competition and trademark infringement.
According to the complaint, Sweetpea acquired rights to the property by an agreement in 1994. As part of the agreement, Solomon’s company got the right to do a sequel or prequel.
But the lawsuit states, “Sweetpea’s claim of ownership of the theatrical motion picture rights in the Property is baseless because the Sequel Rights have reverted to Hasbro.”
The complaint filed in California federal court goes onto say that an amendment to the 1994 contract provided that Sequel Rights would “revert on a rolling basis… on the earlier of (i) five (5) years from of (sic) the initial U.S. release or (ii) seven (7) years from final director’s cut of the immediately prior picture.”
Another provision dealt with the reversion of television rights to the project. Sweatpea produced two TV films including Wrath of the Dragon God for the SyFi Channel in 2005 and The Book of Vile Darkness last year.
“Despite initial plans to release the First TV Movie as a theatrical or non-theatrical sequel based upon the Picture, the production actually was released in the United States as a television motion picture,” says the lawsuit. “Thus, the First TV Movie represented an exercise of the Television Rights and did not reset the Sequel Rights’ five-year reversion clock.”
Hasbro also cites the fact that Sweetpea paid $20,000 for the “Second TV Movie,” an amount it says would have been much “greater… under the License for exercising the Sequel Rights” as well as explaining that this project “neither continued, contained, nor referred to any of the characters, storylines, settings or events from the Picture or the First TV Movie.”
Now that Warner Bros. has reportedly gotten on board, Hasbro is looking to collect damages over the defendants “falsely claiming ownership of the Sequel Rights to WB.”
Maura Wogan at Frankfurt Kurnit is the lead counsel for Hasbro in the case. Michael Weinsten at Lavely & Singer is local counsel who filed the complaint on Monday.
“We have made three pictures so far, and we’re going to make more –including the tentpole project that is currently in advanced stages of development with Warner Bros,” says Solomon in a statement.
“This is nothing but shameless opportunism on the part of Hasbro, an effort to use the Court and the legal process in an attempt to delay the project,” continued Solomon. “We intend to deal with them quickly and firmly and we are confident we will prevail – just as we did in the 1990’s, when the last legal challenge ended with a confirmation of Sweepea’s rights.”
Sweetpea has retained Patricia Glaser as litigation counsel. “Another suit filed to try to put the freeze on a project,” said Glaser. “Classic Hollywood shenanigans.”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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