Dungeons & Dragons Movie Battle Advances

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A film company planning a new Dungeons & Dragons movie wants a federal judge to block Hasbro from developing a competing film about the popular role-playing game.
     The demand came Tuesday in response to the federal complaint that Hasbro filed against Sweetpea Entertainment to halt production of its Dungeons & Dragons movie “Chainmail.” Warner Bros., Sweetpea’s partner in the film, was not named in the action.
     Hasbro’s May suit coincided with reports that the toymaker was developing a film project with Universal.
     U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee had refused to grant Sweetpea summary judgment last month and asked it to file a response to Hasbro’s claims within 15 days.
     The film company’s answer also includes counterclaims for breach of contract, copyright infringement, false designation of origin and trademark dilution.
     “Hasbro wrote a check it cannot cash by promising Universal Pictures (Universal) film rights to Dungeons & Dragons that it does not have,” the 39-page filing states.
     Sweetpea says its founder, Dungeons & Dragons fan Courtney Solomon, was just 19-years-old when he first inquired in 1990 about movie rights to the game.
     Surprised to discover no one had snapped up the rights, Sweetpea allegedly entered into the license with the original Dungeons & Dragons owner, TSR.
     When Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1997, Sweetpea and TSR fought over movie rights and settled in 1998, resulting in an amended rights agreement which is at the center of the current dispute.
     Hasbro, which bought TSR the following year, claims the amended agreement reverted movie rights back to TSR if Sweetpea failed to make another motion picture based on the role-playing game within five years of the first Dungeons & Dragons film.
     Since Sweetpea produced the box office flop, “Dungeons & Dragons,” more than a decade ago, reversion rights apply, Hasbro reasoned.
     Sweetpea insists, however, that the amendment preserves its exclusive rights to a Dungeons & Dragons movie and sequels.
     “Under its license agreement, Sweetpea is the owner in perpetuity of the Dungeons & Dragons copyrights with respect to live-action motion pictures,” the counterclaim states. “Sweetpea’s large bundle of rights under the license agreement includes not only the right to use Dungeons & Dragons copyrighted material and trademarks in connection with live-action movies, it also includes the right to exclude others, including Hasbro, from infringing on those rights.”
     Sweetpea says Hasbro “took to the offensive” and sued the film company, hoping legal action would persuade Warner to back away from “Chainmail.”
     It also claims that Hasbro acted based on the “fundamental misapprehension” that the two movies aired on the SyFy channel – 2005’s “Wrath of the Dragon” and 2012’s “The Book of Vile Darkness” – are television movies.
     The films are “non-theatrical motion pictures” under the license agreement, rather than television movies, Sweetpea contends.
     But “even assuming Hasbro was correct that Sweetpea’s sequel rights had reverted, Hasbro still has no right to license Dungeons & Dragons copyrighted materials to Universal to make a live-action motion picture,” under the bundle of rights granted under the agreement, according to the answer
     Sweatpea wants a declaration that it holds exclusive movie and title rights to Dungeons & Dragons and asks Judge Gee to enjoin Universal’s film.
     Universal, Warner Bros. and Solomon are not parties.
     Sweetpea is represented by G. Jill Basinger with Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro.

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