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.
That hearing will come just over two months before the March 25 trial on the matter is set to start. This is the second such motion of this sort that Sweetpea has filed. The first one this summer was called premature by the presiding judge, who said Hasbro deserved more time to conduct its discovery in the case. Time’s up, says the production company now. “Having had ample opportunity to discover evidence that might allow them to make a case of copyright or trademark infringement, plaintiffs have nothing,” Sweetpea claims in their its filing. Sweetpea also filed counterclaims in the case in early September.
At the heart of all this is a convoluted argument over who owns the D&D movie rights, when did they get them, did they reverts and what actually is a sequel. Hasbro says that based on a 1994 deal between it and Sweetpea, the sequel rights to any D&D pics returned to the toy company in 2000 after one D&D film was made because two additional TV movie based on the game that Sweetpea produced don’t count as feature sequels. They therefore did not count as an exercise of “its Sequel Rights within five years of the U.S. release of the Picture or the First TV movie,” according to the initial filing and Hasbro can make a D&D pic with Universal. The production company disagrees and alleges in its counterclaim this fall that the toy company had actually filed its initial complaint this spring “to delay a deal between Sweetpea and Warner Bros to a produce a fourth Dungeons & Dragons movie.” As its September counterclaims detailed, the production company still contends that it does have the rights to make another live-action D&D movie contrary to what Hasbro insists. 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 fellow Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro lawyers G. Jill Basinger and David Sergenian.