'Cars 2' Fighting Legal Claims in Advance of Release

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From left: McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) go nose to nose with Fin McMissile (Michael Caine).

Cars 2, the follow-up to the 2006 Disney/Pixar movie, is scheduled to hit theaters on Friday. In advance of the release, the studio's lawyers are contending with a UK screenwriter and the designer of a New Zealand supercar who both allege that elements of the new film infringe intellectual property.

First, the battles with a UK screenwriter.

In March, Jake Mandeville-Anthony filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California that claimed Cars infringes the copyright on a three-part screenplay titled "Cookie & Co.," about the true-life adventure race-car driver Michael Owen Perkins, who won a 1988 race, and a second work titled "Cars," which included a treatment, sample screenplay, 46 animated car character descriptions, 10 cars character sketches, and a marketing and merchandising plan.

Those works were created about 20 years ago and Mandeville-Anthony says he sent copies to Disney and also met in person with a Lucasfilm executive who later became general manager at Pixar.

In the original complaint, Mandeville-Anthony asked for injunctive relief, but it appears that none will be forthcoming before the film comes out on Friday. 

Last week, Disney submitted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that no reasonable person could conclude that its Cars films are substantially similar to Mandeville-Anthony's work. A hearing to consider the motion is scheduled for August 1st.

In the meantime, both parties have been fussing over whether Mandeville-Anthony's lawyers should get a DVD copy of the picture. Disney is worried the film could fall into the "wrong hands," and that piracy would destroy the film's commercial success. Mandeville-Anthony's attorney believe this was a "smokescreen" meant to prevent necessary info for a preliminary injunction request.

Today, the parties agreed on a settlement wherein Disney turns over a DVD copy. In the filing, it is revealed that Disney won't make Cars 2 commercially available on DVD until November.

Meanwhile, down in New Zealand, the creators of a $1.2 million supercar named the Hulme CanAm Spyder believe the character of Rip Clutchgoneski in Cars 2 is too similar to their automobile.

Managing director Jock Freemantle told a local newspaper, "Everybody is telling us, 'It's your car,'"

"I am being positive in thinking they haven't just knocked this off," said head designer Tony Parker, adding, "But it's a weird coincidence that the car is called Rip."

The company says it is seeking explanation from Disney.

If the group filed a lawsuit claiming that Cars characters are infringing their real-life automobile, it wouldn't be the first time. Stock car driver Mark Brill previously sued Pixar for allegedly misappropriating the likness of his red race car with yellow 95 on it for the character of Lightning McQueen in the first movie. Needless to say, the courts put the breaks on that one.

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner