Disney won’t have to hand over profits from a bunch of its films, as a VFX lawsuit is rejected by a judge in the US.
Disney and legal battles. It has a somewhat sordid a chequered history, indeed it was only last year we heard about the high profile profit share dispute between Disney and Scarlett Johansson over Black Widow.
This case in this story, though, has a much more complicated history. For the sake of simplicity, the salient facts are these – in 2014, Digital Domain 3, a tech company, accepted a technical achievement award for their use of the MOVA motion capture technology. However, Steve Perlman, who owned the patents, was excluded. A fierce legal battle ensued, and Digital Domain 3’s use of MOVA was frozen. It’s a fascinating story, which you can read the full details of in The Hollywood Reporter's original report from the time.
The result of all this was that there was that there was a real possibility of several Disney projects being severely delayed.
Rearden, the company who owns the MOVA technology, hence wanted a share of the profits from Disney films that used the technology. A US Judge agreed that the that Disney’s use of allegedly pilfered special effects software could be tied to viewers buying tickets for Deadpool, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Beauty And The Beast. He commented that there could be a “causal nexus” between Disney’s intellectual property infringement and its profits from the movies, pointing to promotional materials which featured the MOVA technology and the fact that it could create more realistic characters.
The order of one motion summary judgement read “as to these films, it would be reasonable for the jury to infer from Rearden’s evidence that Defendants advertised their use of MOVA and used MOVA-based clips in the film trailer in order to drive interest in the films and thereby increase film profits”.
At lot of it seemed to hinge on Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige playing up the use of MOVA in a press release. However, the Judge then noted that said document was never released to the public. He found that there was no direct evidence showing that ticket sales for the movie resulted from Feige’s reference to the technology in the document.
The Judge also rejected arguments from Rearden that it proved Disney paid less to make the movies because of MOVA.
“The declarations Rearden cites merely establish that technology such as MOVA inherently provides a better-quality facial performance than traditional techniques,” the order reads. “But they say nothing about the actual costs of using MOVA versus another technology, much less show that Defendants saved costs by using MOVA in either Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool.”.
The outcome is that Reardon did not receive profits from any of the films involved, which also included Terminator Genisys, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Fantastic Four.
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