Judge pares allegations against Disney, Fox and Paramount in patent infringement case

By Elizabeth Alt | Jul 3, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently denied most of Disney, Fox, and Paramount’s motions to dismiss an intellectual property lawsuit alleging the companies used a patented motion picture visual effects technology program.

SAN FRANCISCO –  A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently denied most of Disney, Fox, and Paramount’s motions to dismiss an intellectual property lawsuit alleging the companies used a patented motion picture visual effects technology program.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar, in his June 18 ruling, denied part of Disney’s motions to dismiss the suit. The motion for a joinder from a fourth defendant in the case, Crystal Dynamics, was granted as well as Disney’s motion to dismiss the claim of direct patent infringement.

Rearden LLC and Rearden MOVA LLC filed a complaint against The Walt Disney Company, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Crystal Dynamics, and Paramount Pictures alleging claims of copyright, patent, and trademark infringement. Rearden alleges that the defendants hired special effects company Digital Domain 3.0 (DD3), who used Rearden’s MOVA Contour Reality Capture Program, “a program for capturing the motion of the human face to create images used in motion pictures,” when working on the film companies’ productions.

Rearden claims the film companies had a “direct financial interest in exploitation of Rearden’s copyright in the Contour program” because the program would make the characters more believable, drawing in a wider audience and thus making more money for the film. Rearden also claims that because Disney hired Rearden in the past to use the Contour program, they should have or did know that DD3 was illegally using Rearden’s Contour program.

Disney, Fox, and Paramount argue that Rearden’s copyright liability claims for vicarious and contributory copyright infringement and direct patent infringement claims should be dismissed. The defendants claim that they are not vicariously liable because they did not have any “right to stop or limit the infringing conduct,” claiming that DD3 had all of the “hands-on” involvement during the process.

Tigar denied the motions to dismiss the claims for vicarious copyright infringement, stating that the defendants “could have ended the direct infringement by canceling the use of the MOVA Contour program.”

Tigar noted that the court previously found that Rearden’s claims that Disney knew about the copyright infringement were “unquestionably thin, but they are enough to survive a motion to dismiss.”

Tigar stated that Rearden’s allegations that Disney directly infringed on the Contour copyright “fail to show that that Disney was in possession of any of the elements of the MOVA system.” The court dismissed Rearden’s direct infringement claim with prejudice, noting it had “twice failed to allege a sufficient direct infringement claim.”

The court denied the motions to dismiss Rearden’s claims of vicarious and contributory copyright infringement and granted the motion to dismiss the direct patent infringement claims with prejudice.

U.S. District Court for the  Northern District of California, Case Number 17-cv-04006-JST

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