‘D&D’ Trial Begins
The trial to decide who owns the movie rights to Dungeons & Dragons opened in federal court in Los Angeles Tuesday, with the two sides introducing their cases, as reported by Deadline. The case, which began in May 2013, will turn on the question of whether Sweetpea Entertainment, which had the D&D movie license since TSR was an independent company (two acquisitions ago), satisfied the “use it or lose it” clause in the contract with its 2010 Syfy movie based on Book of Vile Darkness. Dungeons & Dragons owner (Hasbro subsidiary) Wizards of the Coast moved to suit when it looked like Sweetpea was going to make a film with Warner Bros. based on Chainmail, a precursor to D&D.
The judge ruled that Chainmail would have been an infringement had it been made, but in the meantime Sweetpea signed a multimillion dollar deal with Warners to make a new D&D movie this summer. Warners even kicked in around a million dollars for legal fees in the battle with Hasbro, which wants to make a movie with Universal, making this what Deadline called a “proxy war” between Warner Bros. and Universal.
It looked for a while like the two sides were moving toward a settlement, but talks apparently broke down and the case was scheduled for trial.
The two sides presented their positions on Tuesday (i.e., Book of Vile Darkness was/was not a film sequel), and in the process got in an exchange about Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast’s plans for the property if it prevailed. Hasbro wants the rights back so it can “sell it to their new best buddy, Universal,” Sweetpea’s attorney argued; but “Hasbro has no agreement with Universal,” Hasbro’s attorney replied. That’s surprising, given that Hasbro said back in 2013 that it had a D&D movie set up at Universal with Chris Morgan to direct. Hasbro does have an umbrella deal with Universal.
Witnesses began testifying today, and the trial will continue through the week.