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It’s one of the oldest tricks in the legal playbook: Wait until a company is about to have a ton of high-profile success to file a lawsuit accusing it of unethical behavior, therefore generating more press attention than the suit would otherwise enjoy. On Thursday, a small Los Angeles toy company sued Marvel Entertainment over a merchandising deal apparently gone bad. Disney-owned Marvel, of course, is about to unleash The Avengers in theaters. The film is already tracking to break records both overseas and in the U.S., possibly generating more than $600 million in its first 10 days of release.
Avengers features Iron Man and his alter ego Tony Stark, both of which play a role in the new lawsuit. In the complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, a company called Box-O-Mania and its owner Maxim Tselevich claim he created a special kids’ playhouse in 2009 and approached Marvel about a licensing deal to brand the houses with the company’s superheroes. (Marvel was bought that year by Disney but the parent company is not a defendant.)
In 2010, the companies allegedly worked out a deal to create Iron Man’s Lair Play Boxes, a specially-branded playhouse featuring Stark, which would hit stores in November 2010, timed to coincide with the release of Iron Man 2 on DVD.
But Box-O-Mania claims that Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Marvel proceeded to give the company the runaround for months, refusing to provide the required intellectual property and artwork to complete the branded playhouses.
Then, months later, the plaintiffs claim they learned that Marvel never had rights to license the required Iron Man IP, causing it to lose about $33,000 on the deal.
We’ve reached out to Marvel’s rep for comment and will update with a response.
The suit, filed by LA litigator Mark Scott, alleges causes of action including fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence. The defendants are Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Characters, Marvel International Character Holdings and Marvel Characters B.V., a Netherlands-based subsidiary.
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