A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss 20th Century Fox’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the rights to produce and distribute Watchmen.
In the lawsuit, filed in February, Fox claims to hold the exclusive copyrights and contract rights to Watchmen, and seeks to prevent Warner Bros. from moving forward with the movie. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages.
Hollywood gossip columnist Nikki Finke reports that U.S. District Court Judge Gary Allen Feess is still considering Fox’s motion for an injunction.
Fox claims that between 1986 and 1990 it acquired all movie rights to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ DC Comics series. According to the lawsuit, in 1991 Fox assigned some rights to Largo International, which later dismantled and transferred those rights to producer Lawrence Gordon. Gordon, in turn, agreed to pay a buy-out price to Fox if he ever entered into a deal with a third party.
After stops at Universal and Paramount, Watchmen ended up at Warner Bros. But Fox claims than neither Gordon nor Warner Bros. has paid the required fee or acquired the necessary rights.
“While the Judge’s opinion is preliminary and his views could change in the course of the litigation, his current take on the facts is consistent with our position,” a Fox source tells Finke.
Update: Variety reports that Fox isn’t looking for monetary compensation. Rather, it wants to prevent Warner Bros. from ever releasing Watchmen.
The trade paper quotes “a source close to the litigation” as saying, “When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover.”
Hollywood Insider provides a little history and context.
Update: Jeff Trexler has all of the relevant legal documents, including the judge’s order, and highlights what’s been mentioned in several reports — that Warner Bros. faced a similar situation in 2005 with The Dukes of Hazzard.