Edgar Online 5/5/04
Tribune Entertainment Company v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
On October 30, 2003, Tribune Entertainment Company ("Tribune") filed a complaint against the Company in New York State Supreme Court, New York County. The complaint alleges three causes of action: fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of warranty, all in connection with the license from the Company under which Tribune produced the Mutant X television series (the "Tribune License"). Prior to release of the Mutant X television series in 2001, both the Company and Tribune were sued by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation ("Fox"), the licensee of the X-Men properties for motion pictures, among other rights. That suit, which alleged breach of the 1993 X-Men movie license, unfair competition, copyright infringement and tortious interference with contract, all arising from the Tribune License, was settled between the Company and Fox in February 2003. According to the action filed by Tribune on October 30, 2003, Tribune settled with Fox on October 3, 2003. Tribune's October 30, 2003 complaint against the Company alleges that the Company misrepresented the rights it was granting to Tribune in the Tribune License, and that the Company breached its warranty in the Tribune License that the Mutant X property did not conflict with the rights of any third party. On December 11, 2003, the Company filed its answer, denying all material allegations of Tribune's complaint and asserting two counterclaims. First, the Company asserted a claim for breach of contract, alleging that Tribune has failed to pay the Company any monies under a provision of the Tribune License that grants the Company a portion of Tribune's receipts from the Mutant X series, as defined in the Tribune License. Second, the Company alleged that the 2001 Fox litigation was due to Tribune's actions and therefore the Company is owed indemnification for its costs and expenses incurred in its defense of that litigation. The current action is in the discovery phase and no trial date has been set.
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Visimag's Starburst 8/04
Who Wants to Be an X Mutant?
Having survived for three series, Mutant X has finally been snared by 20th Century Fox's legal team. Tom Fox investigates their 'crimes.'
Once upon a time there was a comic called Mutant X. It featured many familiar faces from the Marvel world of heroes and villains, but focused on a skewed universe where their powers and personalities had been altered.
There was the six-armed Man-Spider, for example, who was a clone of the more familiar Spider-Man. What there wasn't however, was a feisty character named Shalimar, or an electricity-casting Brennan, or any of the other characters from the beleaguered TV show. The main thing the two now share in common is that they've both come to the end of the line. The comic was wrapped up in 2001, while Mutant X the series has also now run its course.
So why did no one from Marvel sue the upstart TV show for using the same name? The answer is taht Marvel are behind both creations. Having one part of the Marvel universe sue another for being similar would be a bit strange, wouldn't it? Well that's more or less what has happened, in this bizarre tale of imaginative litigation. Problems first began when Marvel started developing branches of its mutant world with different partners. Their X-Men project, developed with 20th Century Fox, proved to be a big success at the box office. It was only when Tribune started pushing the TV series of Mutant X that eyes started to glow.
Fox struck the first blow in the titanic battle that was to follow. They took both Marvel and Tribune to court in 2001 for various breaches of their contract with Marvel. It seems that publicizing Mutant X off the back of X-Men's popularity and letting the show appear too similar to the movie-franchise-to-be, were crimes in the eyes of the ruffled Fox.
It's hard to argue with them on the similarity front. Right from its inception the Mutant X show always seemed a bit familiar. A group of mutant fly around the planet in a high-powered jet using their abilities for good, with just the occasional falling-out along the way. Yet for a show so obviously painted from the Marvel palette it always appeared to shy away from showing its true colors.
This stylistic timidity seems to stem from the gruelling clashes of their first legal encounter. When it became clear that Marvel's contract with Fox forbade similar products hitching themselves to the X-Men bandwagon, Tribune were forced to mutate their mutants into something lacking that 'X' factor. It shouldn't be much of a surprise then that what we ended up with was more Mutant-Zzz then electrifying entertainment. Even though Mutant X's viewing figures remained reasonable, at an average season rating of around 2.2 million, many pundits and internet-prowling viewers expressed surprise at its staying power.
'Nearly good' seemed to be the consensus. Perhaps the changes Tribune were forced to undergo dampened the creative fire which could have made it a real success, making the show's creations appear corralled from their thoroughbred mutant kin.
According to the Internet Movie Database the original plans for the Mutant X team included black costumes, a boss with the surname Xero, and various codenames for the characters. The feisty Shalimar was going to be Shadow Fox, the empath Emma was designated Rapport, the sparky Brennan was Fuse, and durable Jesse was to have been Synergy. Obviously the creative team did their best having lost these mantles of Mutantdom -- they didn't change Xero to Zero for example -- but it could be that after such an inauspicious start these heroes were already beyond rescue.
Marvel had tried to defend the fledgling product by counter-suing Fox, claiming that the characters, background, names and back-stories were all distinct. They managed to resolve their differences with the colossal corporation, but they must have been more than a bit miffed by what happened next. When Tribune and Fox finished their two-year legal tussle with an out-of-court settlement, Tribune then decided to sue Marvel.
According to Variety Magazine, Tribune claimed that Marvel had made "fraudulent and negligent" statements against the Mutant X series, encouraged them to connect Mutant X to X-Men, and had lied about their contractual obligations to Fox.
The end result is that poor little Marvel are fighting for their survival once more. But then again, they always have been champions of the underdog who punches above his weight. Who knows what they'll pull out of the bag -- or conjure from another dimension -- this time. As for Mutant X, the third season was its last, and Tribune's lawsuit with Marvel states that they haven't made any profit from the production and distribution of the show, but have lost millions instead.
Perhaps back-issues sales of the Mutant X comic book will prove to be a money-spinner in disguise?
Excerpt from Marvel 3/21/05
Marvel 2004 Annual Report
Tribune Entertainment Company v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc. On October 30, 2003, Tribune Entertainment Company (“Tribune”) filed a complaint against the Company in New York State Supreme Court, New York County. The complaint alleges three causes of action: fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of warranty, all in connection with the license from the Company under which Tribune produced the Mutant X television series. Prior to release of the Mutant X television series in 2001, both the Company and Tribune were sued by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (“Fox”), the licensee of the X-Men properties for motion pictures, among other rights. That suit was settled between the Company and Fox in February 2003. According to Tribune's complaint, Tribune settled with Fox on October 3, 2003. On December 11, 2003, the Company filed its answer, denying all material allegations of Tribune’s complaint and asserting counterclaims. The action is in the discovery phase and no trial date has been set.