Warner Bros. may be very happy with the big bucks success they have had with The Conjuring franchise but the studio can’t be pleased that a federal judge today decided they will have to face trial for copyright infringement over the films.
“This case will move forward as to the copyright claims, the business conspiracy claim, and the tortious interference with contract claim against New Line and Warner Bros,” ordered U.S. District Judge John Gibney on Monday rejecting Warners’ efforts to have the matter dismissed. (read it here).
All of which means that, even with some wins by the studio in the legal tussle, Demonologist author Gerald Brittle’s latest March 29 filed legal effort over the rights to the much litigated 2013 blockbuster horror and its sequels and spinoffs looks to be going to trial before a jury on April 16, 2018 in the great state of Virginia. Brittles claims Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who inspired the franchise, were required to run any film deals by him and that he was unfairly cut out.
“The Court declines the parties’ invitation to wade into the truth or falsity of the Warrens’ paranormal escapades or to parse the resulting similiarities between the works at this stage of the case,” Judge Gibney also noted in his seven-page order coming out of arguments heard on Aug. 22 in his courtroom. “This type of analysis, which bears on evidence presented and factual determinations, is better suited for summary judgment or trial.”
Contacted by Deadline, Warner Bros. said that they had no comment on the order currently or the possibility of a trial.
The studio did see some victories in the matter as Time Warner itself, director James Wan, screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes, and RatPac-Dune Productions were removed as defendants in the case. Judge Gibney also rejected Brittle’s request “to conduct jurisdictional discovery” and denied Warner Bros.’ “motion to stay pending arbitration” in the matter
Now set to see the matter argued out in public, Warners are also likely not pleased at all at the hundreds of millions potentially at stake in this case as it inches forward.
While Brittle didn’t naming a specific figure in his complaint of this spring, the author of the 1980 book about the Warren’s real-life investigations into the seemingly supernatural, which are unto themselves the basis of The Conjuring tales, is looking to get his hands on whatever the now more that $1 billion worldwide box office that the franchise has made in the last four years over several films.
The latest, Annabelle: Creation opened to $35 million domestically earlier this month.
“Brittle seeks disgorgement of all of Defendants’ profits derived from said infringement and an injunction to insure the pattern of infringement is stopped,” said the 355-page filing that attorneys Bradley Marrs and Patrick Henry II put before the court for their client in late March — so you do the math.
John Benjamin Rottenborn of Roanoke, VA’s Woods Rogers PLC represents warner Bros and New Line. While WB’s favorite outside counsel and Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli is not apparently on the case for the studio a trio of lawyers from his firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP are also on the case for the studio.