Sam Raimi and his production company Renaissance Pictures has filed a lawsuit against Award Pictures for control of the trademark to the Evil Dead film franchise.
At the heart of the case is a comment that Raimi made in a 2000 book about the horror-comedy he created where he stated that he would not be making any more Evil Dead films. The folks at Award Pictures interpreted this as Raimi and Renaissance abandoning the trademark and registered it for themselves with the intention of making fourth film, Evil Dead 4: Consequences. This went undiscovered until late last year when Renaissance went to the US Trademark office to register a mark for their planned remake of the first film in the series for Sony.
In a filing with the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Award Pictures argued that even if the trademark for the first film is valid, the two sequels were made for different studios and constitute “work for hire” and thus could not be considered “continued use.”They also pointed to over 20 other films that used “Evil Dead” in their titles that Renaissance did nothing about.
Renaissance countered in their lawsuit that although there have been no new films planned until the recently announced remake, they have continued to use the mark through the licensing of video games, comic books and collector memorabilia. They also stated that if Award Pictures planned film were to continue it would invariably infringe on many of their Evil Dead copyrights.
Now granted I am not a lawyer and I am a huge Evil Dead fan, so my opinion may be colored here. But I have to say that Award is on some fairly thin ice in their blatant attempt to cash in on the Evil Dead franchise. And I think that they now it too. I really can’t see their argument that Raimi’s one time stated desire not to make any more films in the series constitutes abandonment any more than I can see that Warner Brothers deciding not to make a sequel to Casablanca as a legal out for someone else to go ahead and make a sequel to that film. (And yes, I know that there was a literary sequel to Casablanca published back in 1998, but that was does so in cooperation with the studio.) It seems obvious that the company’s continued use of the mark through licensing would also shoot the abandonment issue right in the foot.
Award’s claim that Renaissance failed to act against other films that used Evil Dead in their titles strikes me as disingenuous as well. While I have not seen the actual list as submitted in their filing, a quick search of the IMDb shows that these are probably various foreign-produced films like the Japanese Evil Dead Trap or the Hong Kong The Holy Virgin Versus The Evil Dead. I question the ability of the trademark office to be active in such an instance.
In their lawsuit Renaissance is alleging trademark infringement, false advertising and injury to their business reputation and is asking for an injunction against further infringement and further monetary damages.
Via Hollywood Reporter.