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Hagens Berman: Judge Sides with Inventors in Massive Intellectual Property Case Against Disney, Fox, Paramount and Others, Allowing Cases to Continue

A judge overseeing a massive
intellectual property case against entertainment giants Disney, Fox,
Paramount, Marvel Studios, and Crystal Dynamics issued two orders on
June 18, 2018, denying the defendant companies’ motions to dismiss and
for summary judgment, allowing the cases to go forward, according to
attorneys at Hagens Berman representing the inventor.

At the core of the lawsuits against the major motion picture and
videogame companies is MOVA Contour Reality Capture. This Oscar-winning,
copyrighted, and patented motion picture technology has been used in
films to capture the most subtle facial performances from actors such as
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Daniel Radcliff
and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1
and 2, and many other blockbuster movies.

The lawsuits,
originally filed in 2017, state that defendants knowingly used
Contour to make high-grossing movies including Guardians of the Galaxy,
Avengers: Age of Ultron, Terminator Genisys, Deadpool, Beauty
and the Beast, the Rise of the Tomb Raider videogame, and
others, without authorization from Rearden LLC and Rearden Mova LLC, the
plaintiffs in the action and inventors of the technology. This,
attorneys say, makes Disney, Fox, Paramount, Marvel, and the suits’
other defendants liable for infringing Rearden’s copyrights, trademarks
and patents by using the stolen CG technology in their blockbuster films.

The order
from U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar denying in part the motions to
dismiss, states that Rearden has shown the defendants had the right to
control the infringements and received direct financial benefit from
their use of Rearden’s stolen IP. Thus, the order states, Rearden
“sufficiently alleged vicarious copyright infringement.” Judge Tigar
also sided with Rearden in its demonstration that Disney and others knew
their use of the IP was not authorized by Rearden and induced the direct
copyright infringements. Thus, they may be liable for contributory
copyright infringement. Consequently, Judge Tigar denied defendants’
motions to dismiss Rearden’s vicarious and contributory copyright
infringement claims.

Tigar’s order
denying Crystal Dynamics’ and Square Enix’s motion for summary judgement
allows Rearden to continue with the discovery phase of the case, in
which it will seek to uncover the terms of a contract that authorized
use of Contour to capture the performance of Camilla Luddington as Lara
Croft in the Rise of the Tomb Raider videogame.

“Judge Tigar’s order represents a big win for our client against some of
the largest names in the entertainment business, who thought they were
too big to be held accountable for their unauthorized use of Rearden’s
stolen IP to make their blockbuster hits,” said Steve Berman, managing
partner of Hagens Berman. “We’re pleased with the court’s decision and
look forward to continuing this case on behalf of the rightful inventor
of this ground-breaking technology.”

The lawsuits, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District
of California, state that in 2012, a Rearden employee (Greg LaSalle)
began secret negotiations with Digital Domain 3.0 (DD3), to sell the
Contour system for his personal enrichment, without Rearden’s knowledge.
LaSalle had also secretly offered the Contour technology in March 2013
to Disney. Rearden wrote a cease and desist letter to LaSalle in March
2013, reasserting that it owned the Contour intellectual property, that
LaSalle had taken it illegally, and that Rearden would take legal action
if necessary. According to the complaint, LaSalle shared the demand
letter with Disney, which promptly dropped out of negotiations to
acquire Contour.

A mysterious Chinese company affiliated with DD3 called Shenzhenshi then
appeared on the scene, claiming that it had bought the Contour
technology and had licensed it to DD3. In 2013, “LaSalle had access to
the secure storage facility where the physical Contour apparatus and
program were kept, and assisted DD3 in taking the patented apparatus and
copies of the copyrighted Contour Program” without the knowledge or
authorization of Rearden, according to the lawsuit.

DD3 then began secretly offering facial performance capture services to
motion picture and videogame studios and production companies using
Rearden’s Contour technology, including defendants. Meanwhile, LaSalle
wrote to his attorneys that by having Shenzhenshi appear to have
acquired the Contour technology and licensed it back to DD3, it would
“be nearly impossible for the inventor Steve [Perlman] to go after them.”

Photographs
in the complaint show the exact apparatus developed and constructed
by Rearden and stolen by DD3. And statements by Beauty and the Beast co-stars
Dan Stevens and Emma Watson confirm that DD3 was using the very same
Contour software, system and methods that are covered by Rearden’s
patents and copyright. DD3 also even used Rearden’s “MOVA” trademark.

About
Hagens Berman

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law
firm with ten offices across the country. The firm has been named to the
National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the
law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com.
Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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