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Thread: New Lawsuit: DeLorean Estate v. DMCH

  1. #1
    Guy with a DeLorean Mark D's Avatar
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    New Lawsuit: DeLorean Estate v. DMCH

    https://www.courierpostonline.com/st...uit/547110002/

    Back to the Future?

    Nope, it's back to the courts for a dispute over the DeLorean car that traveled through time in the “Back To the Future” films.

    The widow of John DeLorean, who developed the iconic sports car in 1973, wants a federal judge in New Jersey to decide who should be paid under a decades-old agreement that allowed Universal Pictures to use the vehicle in the hit movies.

    Sally DeLorean contends Universal owes her late husband's estate a "substantial” amount “for many years of unpaid royalties." Her lawsuit asserts payments have gone instead to a Houston-area firm, DeLorean Motor Co. (Texas), with no connection to her husband or his venture.

    The movie-rights fight is a sequel, of sorts.

    DeLorean, a resident of Far Hills in Somerset County, previously sued DMC Texas on behalf of the estate in February 2014. That copyright infringement suit was settled a year later – or so she thought.

    At the center of the fight is a stainless steel sports car with distinctive gull-wing doors developed in 1973 by John DeLorean, a maverick auto executive. His firm made only about 9,000 DeLoreans before going under in 1982, the lawsuit says.

    But the DeLorean model grew in fame when it shuttled Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd to adventures in the past and future in films released in 1985, 1989 and 1990.

    The agreement with Universal, reached in 1989, says the studio “will use suitably modified DeLorean automobiles as a 'prop" (i.e. as a 'time machine' belonging to the character 'Doc Brown') in the pictures and in advertising and other forms of exploitation."

    It said the rights to use the vehicle’s image extended to “toys, games, gadgets, novelties, books, apparel, food and beverages.”

    Under the deal, Universal agreed to pay 5 percent of net receipts "from merchandising and commercial tie-ups in connection with the pictures, based upon the (DeLorean) material as a key component."

    The lawsuit against DMC Texas contends Universal stopped making payments at an unknown time, noting the estate “did not have a copy of the agreement at the time of Mr. DeLorean’s death (at age 80 in 2005) and therefore could not enforce his rights.”

    According to the suit, an attorney for the estate wrote to Universal on Feb. 13, “seeking to enforce Mr. DeLorean’s right.” It says the studio responded by saying DMC Texas had claimed it owned the rights under the agreement and had already received the payments.

    The lawsuit also alleges Humble-based DMC Texas threatened legal action if the estate did not drop its effort to be paid by Universal.

    The suit seeks a declaration that the DeLorean estate holds the rights to the Universal contract. It also wants a court order requiring DMC Texas to “pay over to the estate all sums it received from Universal.”

    A lawyer for the Texas firm rejected the estate's claims. "The suit is a work of fiction," attorney Casey J. Lambright of Houston declared Tuesday.

    DeLorean's attorney, R. Scott Thompson of Roseland, Essex County, could not be reached for comment.

    According to its website, the Texas firm sells DeLorean parts and vehicles “assembled to your specification” for $65,000 and up. It offers used vehicles for about $30,000 to $50,000.

    Frequently asked questions at the website include "Are parts readily available?” and "My doors won't stay up, how can I fix them?"

    Another FAQ asks: “Are you ‘the’ DeLorean Motor Co?” Short answer: No.

    In settling the 2014 lawsuit, the estate agreed not to challenge the Texas firm’s right to use “a limited set of intellectual property,” including the name of DeLorean Motor Co. and the DMC logo.

    “The estate did not transfer to DMC Texas any contractual rights,” the lawsuit asserts.

    “In fact,” it says, “the Universal agreement was not mentioned in the settlement.”
    Also covered here:
    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/201...e_payment.html
    Last edited by Mark D; 04-26-2018 at 05:21 PM.
    Mark Dehlinger

  2. #2
    Delorean Guru
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    This story got about 20 seconds of airtime on WABC TV here in the New York area too. I guess Sally wants more money and she found a lawyer willing to take the case on contingency. She may actually have a case here. It will all hinge on the wording and intent of the prior agreements. A good lawyer should be able to wrangle a decent settlement out of Universal and DMCH. It won't come to much but it will be something, especially after she pays her lawyer!
    David Teitelbaum

  3. #3
    Gess dodint's Avatar
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    I pulled the Complaint and exhibits and made them available here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...nt?usp=sharing

    I'll check in a few weeks to see if DMC-TX has filed an Answer, and if so, I'll put it in that same folder.

    In case anyone is interested in reading the source material instead of the continually hokey articles that get written by most news organizations.

    The most interesting thing to me so far is that JZD was approached by Universal at all to use the car. They were probably just securing the licensing rights ahead of time as using the car itself shouldn't have required clearance as far as I know.

  4. #4
    Not really banned Michael's Avatar
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    I guess Sally ran out of the settlement money from DMCH. Time to reload.

    I hate this woman by the way.

    I wish Gale did use a fridge(afraid kids would suffocate), it would have had a two part outcome. First the DeLorean would have not become so expensive so soon and I could have bought one 10 years earlier than I did.

    Second there would be a lot less stupid people in the world.
    Last edited by Michael; 04-26-2018 at 08:40 PM.

  5. #5
    Matt Drive Stainless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dodint View Post
    They were probably just securing the licensing rights ahead of time as using the car itself shouldn't have required clearance as far as I know.

    Why do you think the car itself shouldn't have required clearance?

    Filmmakers get sued all the time for using copyrighted/trademarked works without permission. An automobile design is no different. Here's a famous case where Paramount was sued by Gottlieb for using a pinball machine without permission (for about a minute) in "As Good As It Gets."

    https://www.courtlistener.com/opinio...unt-pictures/?

    Gottlieb lost because the pinball machine was used for such a short period of time and out-of-focus, but the DeLorean automobile in BTTF is much prominent, as you well-know.

    When you own a copyright, design patent, or trademark, you own the exclusive right to use it.
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  6. #6
    Gess dodint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drive Stainless View Post
    Why do you think the car itself shouldn't have required clearance?
    Because it's contrary to common sense and it's an area of law I have only a superficial exposure to. The idea that a defunct car company has rights to film proceeds because one of their cars happened to be used in a movie is silly, to me. Mainly because, as you highlighted in Gottlieb (and by extension Ringgold), the line between actionable breach and allowable common use is so fuzzy it will lead to litigation about pinball machines in the background of bad Mel Gibson movies.

    But, that's my opinion, not the law.

    Thanks for the correction.

  7. #7
    Senior Member DMC-81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dodint View Post
    I pulled the Complaint and exhibits and made them available here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folde...nt?usp=sharing

    I'll check in a few weeks to see if DMC-TX has filed an Answer, and if so, I'll put it in that same folder.

    In case anyone is interested in reading the source material instead of the continually hokey articles that get written by most news organizations.

    The most interesting thing to me so far is that JZD was approached by Universal at all to use the car. They were probably just securing the licensing rights ahead of time as using the car itself shouldn't have required clearance as far as I know.
    Thanks for the Google docs.

    After reading them all ( especially comparing Exhibit A and B), it seems to me (as a layman), that DMCH is within its lane to ask for payment. The outcome will be interesting to see.
    Dana

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    Delorean Guru
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMC-81 View Post
    Thanks for the Google docs.

    After reading them all ( especially comparing Exhibit A and B), it seems to me (as a layman), that DMCH is within its lane to ask for payment. The outcome will be interesting to see.
    Without reading the agreement between DMCH and Sally Delorean there is no way you can know what will happen. If DMCH is entitled to anything then Sally may be too because of that agreement. In all probability this will get settled out. How much Sally (and her lawyer) get will depend on how strong their case is and how much they are asking for. Every case has a "nuisance value" and both sides figure at least $10,000 per day if the case goes to trial.
    David Teitelbaum

  9. #9
    Senior Member DMC-81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David T View Post
    Without reading the agreement between DMCH and Sally Delorean there is no way you can know what will happen. If DMCH is entitled to anything then Sally may be too because of that agreement. In all probability this will get settled out. How much Sally (and her lawyer) get will depend on how strong their case is and how much they are asking for. Every case has a "nuisance value" and both sides figure at least $10,000 per day if the case goes to trial.
    David, exhibit A is that settlement agreement.
    Dana

    1981 DeLorean DMC-12 (5 Speed, Gas Flap, Black Interior, Windshield Antenna, Dark Gray)
    Restored as "mostly correct, but with flaws corrected". Pictures and comments of my restoration are in the albums section on my profile.
    2006 Dodge Magnum R/T (D/D)
    2010 Camaro SS (Transformers Edition)

  10. #10
    Delorean Guru
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    Well then, a good lawyer should be able to figure out how good Sally's case is. Obviously her lawyer thinks it is good enough. These cases can drag on for a long time and when they settle it doesn't make the news. If she is successful and can actually get some royalties they are inheritable and her heirs may be entitled to them too. A single lump sum payment to pay her off wouldn't do that. Depends on how greedy she is.
    David Teitelbaum

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