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.
As Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr first reported in May, the toy company wasn’t pleased at all with the D+D project called Chainmail that Sweetpea’s Courtney Solomon had set up at Warner Bros because of its own potential Universal project. What makes this all the more complicated is a tangled web of who actually owns the D&D movie rights, when did they get them, did they revert and what is a sequel? Seriously. In fact, the counterclaim alleges that filed its initial complaint “to delay a deal between Sweetpea and Warner Bros to a produce a fourth Dungeons & Dragons movie.”
Sweetpea also want the court to declare that they are the holders of the rights and an injunction against Hasbro going ahead with any proposed D+D movie with Universal. They additionally want the court to make a deal on the same financial terms that Hasbro has with Universal and want the words Dungeons & Dragons “prohibited” from any live action movie Hasbro ever makes. This latest move comes three weeks after US District Judge Dolly Gee rejected a summary judgment motion from Sweetpea in the case. Michael Weinstein and Daniel Gutenplan of LA firm Lavely & Singer and Maura Wogan and Jeremy Goldman of NY firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz represents the toy company. Sweetpea is represented by Glaser along with G. Jill Basinger and David Sergenian of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro.