Maverick sues, alleges idea theft


Maverick Films, the production company co-founded by Madonna, has filed a lawsuit alleging another film company stole ideas to benefit a competing project.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims Beverly Hills-based Inferno Distribution unfairly represented itself to gain access to confidential information about a movie Maverick is making called "The Stanford Prison Experiment."

Inferno announced in early October that it was funding a remake of the German film "Das Experiment," based on the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971.

The lawsuit claims Inferno and partner Bill Johnson "represented that they had no involvement in a competing film project and that all information provided to them would be maintained in the strictest confidence. Defendants lied."

Maverick acquired rights to the story in 2002 from Philip G. Zimbardo, a psychology professor at Stanford University who conducted an experiment on obedience in 1971. He recruited 24 men to portray inmates and guards in a prison setting. Zimbardo planned to study the men for two weeks, but dangerous behavior among them prompted him to stop the experiment after six days.

According to the lawsuit, Maverick began developing its film based on the experiment in June 2003 and first met with Johnson and Inferno in May 2006.

Johnson told The Associated Press that the lawsuit was groundless.

"Maverick knew full well when they approached us to finance their movie that we were looking at the other project," he said. "In fact, that's the reason they approached us in the first place.

"We didn't like the project and that's why we passed on it. This is just a classic case of sour grapes."

Maverick's lawsuit alleges misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, breach of contract and fraud. It seeks an injunction preventing Inferno from producing or marketing any film based on the Stanford Prison Experiment. It also seeks damages of at least $50 million.