Hasbro Rests in ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Hasbro rested its case Monday in a trial over who holds movie rights to “Dungeons & Dragons,” and opposing attorneys said there is no foundation to block an in-the-works movie based on the fantasy role-playing game.
     The trial in Hasbro v. Sweetpea began Sept. 16. Monday was the fifth day of proceedings in U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s courtroom in downtown Los Angeles.
     Hasbro sued Courtney Solomon’s Sweetpea last year after the defendants reached an agreement with Warner Bros. to make a new movie called “Chainmail.”
     Hasbro’s lawsuit coincided with reports that it was planning to make its own D & D movie at Universal Studios.
     In September 2013, Sweetpea filed counterclaims of breach of contract, copyright infringement, false designation of origin and trademark dilution, after Gee denied its request for summary judgment.
     Both parties are relying on a 1998 amendment to Sweetpea’s licensing agreement that determines how long Solomon’s rights are good.
     On Monday, Solomon’s attorneys Patty Glaser and Christopher Caldwell asked Judge Gee to dismiss Hasbro’s claims for copyright and trademark infringement.
     Caldwell told the judge there was no evidence of “inducement or encouragement of direct infringement.”
     “The evidence shows that the ‘Chainmail’ script existed before Mr. Solomon got a copy of it on Dec. 7, 2012,” Caldwell said. “The script pre-existed; he didn’t change it. He didn’t cause anything to happen to it. And so there’s absolutely no evidence to support their derivative liability copyright claim.”
     The attorney also urged the judge to throw out Hasbro’s trademark infringement claim.
     “I don’t think they’ve put in any evidence of any trademark registration, that I’ve seen,” Caldwell said. “And what they’re put into evidence in respect to motion pictures is simply an application. An application is not a registration.”
     But Hasbro’s attorney Jeremy Goldman, with New York firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz, insisted that an injunction against “Chainmail” is merited.
     Solomon acknowledged that he knew that he could not proceed with the “Chainmail” project without Hasbro’s permission, Goldman said.
     Sweetpea had sent a press release to Deadline Hollywood, announcing the “Chainmail” project, the attorney added.
     “At the encouragement and inducement of Mr. Solomon, Warner Bros. did undertake activities to continue further developing and going into subsequent phases of developing this movie,” Goldman said.
     Goldman said the evidence showed there was “discussion with many directors” and that Solomon had encouraged Warner Bros. to distribute the script publicly to interested parties.
     Confusion would arise in the marketplace because Sweetpea was purporting to hold a license that belongs to Hasbro, Goldman said.
     “The public’s going to believe that Sweetpea has rights that they don’t have. And of course, in our view, they don’t have those rights,” Goldman said.
     Gee said she would defer ruling on the copyright and trademark claims until a verdict was reached and she had read Hasbro’s brief, which she ordered counsel to submit by Tuesday morning.
     Earlier Monday, Warner Bros. executive Jun Oh testified about rumors that had circulated around the “Chainmail” project, with British Director Guy Ritchie and horror merchant Eli Roth mentioned as possible directors for the project. Russell Crowe’s name was floated as a potential star for the film.
     Solomon and Sweetpea were involved in a second D&D movie, “Wrath of the Dragon God.” Solomon allowed Silver Pictures to produce a third movie that came out in 2012. That film, “The Book of Vile Darkness,” is at the root of the current dispute, about whether it’s a television movie or a non-theatrical sequel.
     Hasbro claims that because the film was a TV movie, rights to movie revert back to the toy company.
     Warner reportedly has entered into a multimillion-dollar agreement with Sweetpea for “Chainmail,” and put up $1 million to fight Hasbro in court.
     Monday afternoon Sweetpea called attorney Robert Barnes to the stand. Barnes represented Sweetpea when it negotiated two amendments to Solomon’s license to make D&D movies in 1998.
     Solomon’s testimony was delayed by procedural matters. He is scheduled to take the stand again Tuesday.
     “I do expect to finish this trial tomorrow, come hell or high water,” Judge Gee said on Monday.

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