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The man behind the cult horror-comedy Leprechaun franchise is out for blood in a copyright-infringement lawsuit over his new Vamprechaun project.
Mark Jones is suing Lance Thompson for allegedly lying about being an attorney and causing him to lose financing on his film, according to a complaint filed in California federal court.
Jones says he began developing the “vamprechaun” character — a leprechaun-vampire hybrid — in or before 2009. He put the project on hold because he was focused on finding funding for his 2013 film, Scorned, which was further along in the development process. Thompson secured funding for the film and also acted as production attorney for the project.
On the way to a breakfast meeting concerning Scorned, Jones mentioned the Vamprechaun idea to Thompson for the first time, according to the complaint.
“On that drive, Jones and Thompson did not discuss either the character or the story line, or the project, in any further detail,” writes attorney Alan Dowling in the complaint. “Jones simply explained that the idea involved a leprechaun who is bitten by a vampire and becomes one himself.”
Jones claims Thompson was enthusiastic about the idea and willing to seek financing, but told him he’d need a script in order to approach potential financiers. Jones wrote a spec script in 2013 and registered it with both the Writers Guild and U.S. Copyright Office. None of Thompson’s financing efforts were successful, and Jones says the two “parted ways” as far as Vamprechaun was concerned.
A few years later, George Saadi, who is also a plaintiff in the suit, introduced Jones to American Gladiators creator John Ferraro Sr. Ferraro and his son were interested in financing the project, but were concerned about infringement claims from the Leprechaun copyright owners. So Jones says he turned to Thompson, who he believed was an attorney, for legal advice. Thompson sent a letter to Ferraro explaining that any infringement claim would be “spurious” and that Vamprechaun was an original blending of two public-domain characters.
Then, Jones claims, Thompson began acting as the production attorney on the project, even though he had not been hired as such. So Jones and Saadi informed Thompson he had no “further or ongoing involvement” in the project — which prompted Thompson to claim that he and Jones created the character together during that 2013 prebreakfast chat.
Saadi’s brother, an attorney, sent Thompson a letter refuting his statements and indicating that any further communications to third parties about his purported claim to the idea would constitute tortuous interference. Despite the warning, Thompson emailed Ferraro’s son, claiming to be a partner in the project, but refused to show proof that supported his assertions, according to the complaint.
That’s when Jones and Saadi say they learned Thompson had never been licensed to practice law in California and that his license in Ohio had been lapsed for more than a decade.
“As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Thompson’s wrongful actions complained of herein, on December 9, 2016, the Ferraros/Mansky Productions gave notice to Jones, Saadi and Vamprechaun Productions that due to Thompson’s unresolved claims they would not be going forward with the financing of the ‘Vamprechaun‘ project, and they withdrew from it,” writes Dowling.
Jones is suing for copyright infringement, slander of title and intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and is seeking at least $3 million in damages. (Read the complaint in full here.)
Thompson has not yet responded to a request for comment on the suit.
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