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Mutant X Articles: 10/31/03 Tribune vs. Marvel lawsuits

Zap 2 It 10/31/03

'Mutant X' Producer Sues Marvel
Friday, October 31, 2003 01:19 PM PT

The producer of the syndicated series "Mutant X" is suing Marvel Enterprises, claiming that Marvel committed fraud in granting the rights to the show. Tribune Entertainment is asking for $100 million in damages, according to news reports. The suit, filed this week in New York, comes a month after Tribune and 20th Century Fox settled a different lawsuit over "Mutant X." (Tribune Entertainment is a division of the Tribune Co., which also owns

At issue in both cases are similarities between "Mutant X" and "X-Men," the Marvel Comics property that 20th Century Fox has turned into two hugely successful feature films. As the series was about to launch in 2001, 20th Century Fox sued Tribune claiming that the show was "a knockoff" of "X-Men" and might damage the value of its property.

The "X-Men" movies and "Mutant X" both feature warring groups of mutants with extraordinary powers.

Tribune's suit alleges that Marvel misrepresented the scope of Fox's rights to the "X-Men" characters. Marvel assured Tribune that 20th Century Fox had no rights to a TV series; at the same time, however, Fox told Marvel of "very serious concerns" it had about the show.

"Based on those communications, Marvel knew or should have known that Fox would complain about any real or perceived linkage between 'Mutant X' and 'X-Men,'" the suit charges. "However, Marvel did not tell Tribune about Fox's expressed concerns."

Tribune claims it has lost millions of dollars on "Mutant X" because it had to alter characters and storylines in wake of the 20th Century Fox suit. Marvel hasn't commented on the Tribune suit.

© Zap 2 It

Comics Continuum 10/31/03


Marvel Enterprises issued a release Friday morning, rejecting allegations made by Tribune Entertainment in a lawsuit over the Mutant X television series.

Tribune filed suit against Marvel for at least $100 million. Among the allegations were that Marvel made statements that were "fradulent and negligent," misrepresented its rights that led to a lawusit with 20 Century Fox over conflict with X-Men rights and that Mutant X's success was hampered because storylines had to be distanced from X-Men.

Marvel statement's said:

"In response to a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court by Tribune Entertainment Company, a subsidiary of the Tribune Co., Marvel Enterprises, Inc. stated that Tribune's claims are without merit and that Marvel looks forward to vigorously defending the action. Marvel is reviewing a range of possible legal actions in addition to its active defense. Marvel does not intend to make any further public comment on the litigation at this time."

© Comics Continuum

The Hollywood Reporter 10/31/03

'x' Marks $100 Mil Lawsuit
By Steve Brennan Date: Friday, October 31 2003

The "Mutant X" syndicated TV action series is the focus of a $100 million lawsuit filed by Tribune Entertainment against comic giant Marvel Enterprises. Tribune is accusing Marvel of fraud and misrepresentation in granting rights to Tribune to produce the sci-fi series.

The alleged fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract by Marvel resulted in Tribune being forced into litigation with 20th Century Fox Film Corp., which claimed that the TV series was a "knockoff" of Fox's "X-Men" characters. A settlement was agreed upon in that case earlier this month, and the notice to dismiss the Fox case was filed Thursday.

At the same time, Tribune filed its suit against Marvel on Tuesday in New York Supreme Court requesting damages, including punitive damages from Marvel in the amount of "at least $100 million."

Papers filed in court allege that in July 2000, around the time of the release of the movie "X-Men," Rick Ungar, then president of the Marvel character group, contacted Tribune Entertainment president and CEO Richard Askin and asked if Tribune would be interested in acquiring rights for a live-action hourlong TV series based on "X-Men."

"In their discussions, Ungar specifically told Askin that Marvel had retained the television rights to the 'X-Men' in its deal with Fox to produce an 'X-Men' feature film," the suit maintains.

The following month, Ungar began negotiations with Tribune business affairs senior vp David Berson on the enterprise. "Ungar specifically told Berson that Fox had no rights whatsoever with respect to an 'X-Men' TV series," the suit alleges.

Tribune entered a deal memorandum with Marvel to produce, finance and distribute the "Mutant X" series. Tribune created a sales tape to pitch the show to stations and used clips from the "X-Men" movie. Ungar actually reviewed that tape and made specific recommendations concerning the use of clips from "X-Men."

Ungar later stated to Tribune: "We are losing the very point we are seeking to take advantage of; you folks didn't make a deal with us to sell some generic mutant show. You wanted the connection to the 'X-Men' — you wanted the connection to Marvel — I would really suggest that it be used."

By the end of March 2001, Tribune was clearing "Mutant X" with broadcasters around the country for a fall 2001 debut and had licensed it to 125 TV stations.

But the suit alleges: "Unbeknownst to Tribune, throughout the same period that Marvel was telling Tribune to proceed full steam ahead with 'Mutant X,' Marvel had been engaged in a series of ongoing communications with Fox in which Fox expressed its very serious concerns about the content and title of 'Mutant X' and, specifically, its relationship to the 'X-Men.' Based on those communications, Marvel knew or should have known that Fox would complain about any real or perceived linkage between 'Mutant X' and the 'X-Men.' However, Marvel did not tell Tribune about Fox's expressed concerns."

Fox then sent a letter to Marvel asserting that "Mutant X" "is a thinly veiled version of 'X-Men' " and that "Marvel's production and distribution of 'Mutant X' was illegal and a material breach of the 1993 (license) agreement" between Fox and Marvel. Fox demanded that "any further development, production and distribution of 'Mutant X' cease immediately."

In April 2001, Fox filed suit against Marvel and Tribune alleging that the characters in the TV series were virtually identical to those in "X-Men" and violated Fox's intellectual property rights. Fox alleged that Marvel's grant of rights to Tribune was in breach of the Marvel-Fox agreement.

"As a result of the Fox litigation, Tribune discovered, among other things, that Marvel had materially misrepresented the terms and conditions of the Marvel-Fox agreement with respect to 'X-Men,' " the Tribune suit against Marvel says. "Had Tribune known the true facts, it would not have entered into the 'Deal Memorandum' and expended millions of dollars for the development, production and exploitation of 'Mutant X.' "

Additionally, Tribune says that Marvel's actions caused Tribune "to spend millions of dollars for the development, production and exploitation of 'Mutant X' and, thereafter, to spend millions more in connection with the Fox litigation and changing the content, marketing and promotion of 'Mutant X.' These changes compromised 'Mutant X' and, in part, accounted for the losses that 'Mutant X' has incurred to date." Tribune claims to have lost "millions of dollars" on the production and distribution of the series.

© Hollywood Reporter

Variety Magazine 11/2/03

Marvel strikes back vs. 'Mutant X' case: Co. insists Tribune's accusation is without merit

NEW YORK -- Marvel Enterprises has denied the charges contained in a lawsuit filed Thursday in which Tribune Entertainment claims Marvel cost it millions of dollars in lost profits over the syndicated series "Mutant X."

Insisting that the Tribune the suit is "without merit," Marvel said it's "reviewing a range of possible legal actions in addition to its active defense."

Gordon Hodges, a media analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners, said that the lawsuit "is not likely to have a significant effect on Marvel's investors. Lawsuits are one of the costs of being in the business of licensing characters like 'Spider-Man' and 'Captain America.' " Marvel is involved in a lawsuit with Sony Pictures over "Spider-Man" and recently concluded a legal action over "Captain America," Hodges said.

Tribune's suit excoriates Marvel for allegedly lying about its rights to any spinoffs of "X-Men." When Tribune started developing "Mutant X" in 2001, it says Marvel encouraged the company to sell the show as an extension of "X-Men," which 20th Century Fox had turned into a hit theatrical movie.

But, according to Tribune, 20th had a contract that gave it the right to rule on any TV series spinoffs, a fact Marvel allegedly kept from Tribune. When 20th sued Tribune and Marvel over the too-close similarity of "Mutant X" to "X-Men," Tribune said it had to spend millions of dollars retooling the show and more millions fighting the 20th lawsuit, which was finally settled out of court last month.

On Oct. 9, Marvel raised its quarterly-earnings target because of increased license fees on movies, toys and games based on "The Hulk," "Spider-Man" and "Daredevil."

© Variety

ICv2 11/3/03

Tribune Entertainment Sues Marvel Over Mutant X
November 03, 2003

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Tribune Entertainment has sued Marvel Enterprises for $100 million, claiming that Marvel's actions have doomed the Mutant X TV series, which Tribune licensed from Marvel. In 2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., which had just scored a big hit with the first X-Men movie, sued both Marvel and Tribune Entertainment on the grounds that the Mutant X TV series, which Tribune had already syndicated to more than 125 TV stations, infringed on Fox's right to exclusive exploitation of the X-Men property (see "Fox Sues Marvel Over Mutant X"). Marvel settled with Fox in March of this year (see "Mutant X Lawsuit Settled"), and Tribune and Fox settled earlier this month. Now Tribune Entertainment is suing Marvel, citing the loss of millions of dollars in fighting the Fox lawsuit and claiming that changes made to the Mutant X series to distance it from X-Men have kept Mutant X from making money. According to Tribune's complaint, "Tribune has not realized any profit at all from the production and distribution of Mutant X, but has instead lost millions of dollars." In spite of the losses, Tribune Entertainment has not cancelled Mutant X, which first aired on Oct. 6, 2001 and is currently well into its third season. Although the Fox lawsuit dimmed prospects for Mutant X licensing, ADV Films is releasing Mutant X DVDs.

Marvel reacted to news of the Tribune lawsuit with a short statement claiming that the Tribune's claims are "without merit" and indicating that Marvel "looks forward to vigorously defending the action...and is reviewing a range of possible legal actions in addition to its active defense."

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