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Game Developer Sues Movie Man Rodriguez

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - A film company claims in court that "Mariachi" director Robert Rodriguez and an agent "bullied" nonparty Steve Wozniak to scare him away from an agreement to back a computer game.

ITN Flix, a Utah LLC, sued Rodriguez; Machete Kills LLC; California agent Gloria Hinojosa; and her agency, Amsel, Eisenstadt & Frazier, in Federal Court.

ITN claims the defendants "bullied, threatened, and intimidated" people, including Wozniak, to kill a movie deal and its computer app.

Wozniak, the legendary co-founder of Apple, is not a party to the complaint. ITN claims that the bullying and intimidation from Rodriguez and Hinojosa caused Wozniak to drop his support for the game app, costing ITN $5 million in sales per month.

In its complaint, ITN Flix claims that nonparty Danny Trejo, star of the "Machete" and "Machete Kills" movies, was slated to appear in its movie, "Danny Trejo's Vengeance."

The complaint states: "On or about April 25, 2006, ITN and Trejo entered into a valid agreement wherein Trejo licensed his image, likeness, signature, endorsement, and voice to ITN for eight years in connection with any products and services including, but not limited to, the development, design, manufacture, sale, distribution, publicizing, advertising, marketing, promotion, and exploitation of such products or services.

"On or about July 22, 2006, Trejo entered into a valid agreement with ITN's owner and president, Gil Medina, ('Owner'), to be the starring actor in the franchise series of vigilante films as well as participate in promotional activities for the films.

"The agreement provides that Trejo would not appear in any films that would affect or damage the vigilante film franchise.

"Trejo also agreed to appear in the movie, 'Machete Kills,' directed by Robert Rodriguez.

"Neither Rodriguez nor Machete Kills has licensed or even sought permission to use Danny Trejo's likeness or image in accordance with ITN's rights under the above-mentioned agreements."

ITN claims it contracted with nonparty React Games to build an electronic game to "create a buzz" for the film. It claims that React's owner Chad Lee estimated the game would generate $5 million per month.

And, ITN claims, Lee arranged through a friend for Wozniak to support the app, to promote the film.

Software legend Wozniak, known as The Woz, founded Apple Computer in a garage with the late Steve Jobs.

"Wozniak agreed to lend his name, his likeness, his voice, and his support to ITN's app game intended to promote the film," the complaint states.

"The app game was titled 'Danny Trejo's Vengeance: Woz With a Coz,' a reference to Wozniak himself, in order to create a larger buzz in the technology world and increase both film and app game revenues."

ITN claims that its app game "is the first and only game application on which Wozniak has collaborated and with which Wozniak is associated."

It adds: "The app game was critically acclaimed and was featured in numerous popular tech blogs, including Tech Crunch, The Verge, CNET, and a blog on Apple's own App Store website."

The app was supposed to be released on Nov. 22, 2012, according to the complaint.

However, fearing the projects would diminish the "Machete Kills" brand, Rodriguez "used his means, connections, and influence to threaten, intimidate, and bully Wozniak into pulling his support for the app game," the complaint states.

It continues: "Rodriguez intended to hurt and halt sales of the app game because he knew that by doing so, he would be hurting and damaging the sale, completion, promotion, and success of the film.

"Rodriguez damaged and halted sales of the app game and the film."

ITN claims that Trejo's agent, defendant Hinojosa, then "conspired" with Rodriguez "to damage or destroy sales of the app game and the film."

The complaint continues: "Hinojosa and Rodriguez bullied, threatened, and intimidated all people involved with the film and the app game to damage sales and business relationships.

"Hinojosa, on advice of Rodriguez, contacted Steve and Janet Wozniak and demanded to know how much money they received in connection with the app game and threatened the Wozniaks for their involvement.

"Hinojosa, on advice of Rodriguez, knowingly misrepresented to the Wozniaks that ITN did not have a contract with Trejo and had not worked with Trejo for 10 years in an attempt to defame ITN and cripple its business relationships with the Wozniaks and others in the film industry.

"Hinojosa, on advice of Rodriguez, told the Wozniaks that owner of ITN was a fraud and a con man in an attempt to defame ITN and cripple its business relationship with the Wozniaks and others in the film industry."

Medina claims in the complaint that he "had just finished working with Trejo on a project in the summer of 2012, and defendants all knew or had reason to know that ITN had an active working relationship with Trejo."

"Based on the misrepresentations of Hinojosa and Rodriguez, Wozniak backed out of promotion and assistance of Woz with a Coz.

"In addition, Wozniak thereafter refused to talk to reporters and turned down interviews related to the app game," according to the complaint.

ITN claims the entire brouhaha cost it its estimated $5 million per month in sales of the app game. It claims the tangled fiasco also hurt its reputation in the film industry.

ITN seeks $11 million in damages for negligence, defamation and false light, and intentional interference with economic relations.

It is represented by Joseph Pia with Pia Anderson Dorius Reynard & Moss.

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