Fox, Paramount Accused of Using Stolen Computer Graphic Technology for Hit Films

Terminator: Genisys Split - H 2015
Paramount Pictures

Terminator: Genisys Split - H 2015

Rearden LLC is now in full-on attack mode against Hollywood studios.

A week after the company filed a lawsuit demanding an injunction on three Disney films, Rearden has now submitted three more lawsuits over motion capture technology that it contends was stolen. One lawsuit demands that Fox be enjoined from distributing Deadpool, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Fantastic Four. A second lawsuit aims at Paramount's Terminator: Genisys. And a third goes after Crystal Dynamics for an Xbox game called Rise of the Tomb Raider.

The plaintiff, a firm incubated by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Perlman, claims to have perfected a technology called MOVA, which captures facial expressions to create photorealistic computer graphic effects. Rearden has battled with Digital Domain 3.0, and last year after an FBI investigation into economic espionage, scored an injunction against two Chinese firms that purchased the technology being licensed. Digital Domain is challenging the injunction before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Now, Rearden is looking to do something about technology it says was used to make Arnold Schwarzenegger look much younger in the most recent Terminator film and to make Colossus appear as the character did in X-Men comics.

Rearden says it had contracts with the studios for prior films. The plaintiff says it licensed its technology to Fox for Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and to Paramount for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which won an Academy Award for its reverse aging of Brad Pitt's face.

The complaints (here's one) further accuse the studios of having "secretly contracted with the thieves," and notwithstanding the "widely-reported litigation," to having flaunted use of the allegedly stolen tech.

Somewhat unusually, the latest lawsuits bring no patent infringement claims.

Instead, Rearden is asserting copyright infringement connected with the "output" of its software program — including skin texture, makeup pattern, captured surface and something called tracking mesh. Rearden is also claiming trademark infringement from the way that the studios have been advertising and promoting the VFX in their films. 

The claims could provoke Dastar-type arguments from the defendants over the intellectual property mash-up ambiguities and be scrutinized on whether expression is really being misappropriated, but for now, Rearden and its attorneys at Hagens Berman are clearly attempting to send a message a year after some observers were sounding alarms about the legally controversial technology being widely used in Hollywood.