The moves over who owns the rights to make a Dungeons & Dragons movie and who is actually going to make one have taken another roll of the dice on the legal tabletop with studios Universal and Warner Bros watching on the sidelines. More than half a year after Hasbro filed a copyright and trademark infringement complaint against Sweetpea Entertainment on May 14, the latter is seeking a partial dismissal of the case. Hasbro has a potential D&D deal with Universal and Sweetpea has an agreement with Warner Bros. With a team led by heavyweight entertainment lawyer Patricia Glazer of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, producer Courtney Solomon’s Sweetpea filed a motion for partial summary judgment on December 13 (read it here). “To establish copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show that the defendant has used protectable elements of the plaintiff’s copyrighted works in an infringing work. Here, plaintiffs allege that a script entitled Chainmail infringes copyrights they own. Chainmail, however, was not written by Sweetpea, nor did Sweetpea have a hand in developing the script. “Chainmail was written without any involvement by Sweetpea,” says the 14-page motion filed in LA federal. To put it simply Sweetpea may have looked at script from a studio but they’re not making Chainmail as some sort of D& D derivative. Sweetpea has requested a hearing on its motion for January 24.
The legal maneuvering over who actually owns movie rights to Dungeons & Dragons has gone to another level. Months after Hasbro filed a copyright and trademark infringement complaint against Sweetpea Entertainment, the defendant counterclaimed last week. And they were not too nuanced about it: “Sweetpea has the sole, exclusive right to make a Picture, i.e. a live-action motion picture based in whole or in part on the Property,” said the 102-page filing made by the company’s lawyer on September 3 (read it here). Like Hasbro, Sweetpea also demands a jury trial in the case. On September 5, the U.S. District Court set a March 25, 2014 trial date. Hasbro sued Sweetpea in a five-claim complaint on May 14 of this year. Of course, Sweetpea had more demands, including damages, in its recent counterclaim to stop a D&D film from Universal going ahead. “That, as to all claims, Sweetpea be awarded damages, including its actual damages (or statutory damages for certain acts of copyright infringement, if Sweetpea so elects), Counter-Defendants’ profits, treble and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees and costs, in an amount to be ascertained pursuant to applicable laws,” the filing drafted by powerhouse entertainment attorney Patricia Glazer added.
UPDATE, 5:52 PM: The other player in the battle over who owns the movie rights to Dungeons & Dragons has just made their latest move. Regardless of the copyright and trademark infringement complaint …
EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday, I broke a story about Warner Bros making big plans on a live-action feature based on the role-playing fantasy game fixture Dungeons & Dragons. Not so fast, says Hasbro, which claims that it owns the rights to D&D, and that the toymaker company has set up the project at Universal to be developed as a directing vehicle by Chris Morgan, the scribe behind the last five films in The Fast And The Furious franchise (including the upcoming Fast 6) and 47 Ronin.
Well, nobody is commenting for the record at Warner Bros, but I can tell you the studio isn’t backing down from its plans to move forward on a project that already has a completed script by Wrath Of The Titans scribe David Leslie Johnson, with Roy Lee producing alongside Courtney Solomon. Solomon actually directed the 2000 feature based on the billion-dollar fantasy game. Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness said that “Hasbro owns the intellectual property rights to Dungeons & Dragons, period, because of Hasbro’s acquisition of Wizards Of The Coast in 1998.” Insiders on the other project maintain this has come up before, and that in a binding arbitration decision, Solomon prevailed and was proven to hold the underlying rights necessary to make the Warner Bros movie possible.
EXCLUSIVE: This ought to reverberate through the geek realm. Warner Bros has acquired rights to make a movie based on Dungeons & Dragons, the perennially popular role-playing game fantasy game. The studio is actually quite far along in the development of the project, as it will use a script by Wrath Of The Titans and Red Riding Hood scribe and Frank Darabont protege David Leslie Johnson. That script, Chainmail, was acquired last year as a free-standing project, based on an obscure game that was also hatched by D&D designer Gary Gygax before he and Dave Arneson launched D&D. It is being retro-fitted to fit the much bigger game creation. The film will be produced by The Lego Movie producer Roy Lee and Courtney Solomon. The latter actually directed a 2000 Dungeons & Dragons feature, a film that starred Jeremy Irons and did not do well.