General News

Marvel, Sony Continue Battle Over "Spider-Man"

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Apr 21, 2003 | 11:07am EDT

The fate over Spider-Man movie merchandising remains up in the air, although the battle for it may start getting down and dirty.

Reuters reports L.A. Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams will rule next week on whether to make legal documents available to the public in the lawsuit filed by Marvel Enterprises, Inc. against Sony Pictures Entertainment, something Sony is trying to fight.

In the lawsuit filed under seal in February, the comic book publisher is seeking to end its Spider-Man licensing agreement with the studio.

Sony contends that disclosure of the legal documents will jeopardize the company's future dealings with business partners and competitors, exposing vital information regarding revenue projections, advertising budgets and royalty targets.

Judge Williams on Monday will consider motions by Sony seeking to keep certain documents under seal and to refer the dispute to a referee--a retired judge assigned to handle the case in an expedited manner--rather than a jury trial, which is what Marvel is asking for, Reuters reports.

In the suit, Marvel maintains that Sony has tried to take the Spider-Man brand away from them by assuming exclusive merchandising rights to the character and "cross-promoting" the superhero with other Sony features. As well, Marvel says Sony reneged on its promise to use its sister companies, such as Sony Electronics and its games division, to merchandise Spider-Man.

"Marvel is a company whose lifeblood and business is merchandising and licensing," Marvel attorney Carole Handler told Reuters. "If the merchandising is skewed, it doesn't just affect short-term profit based on the movie, it affects Marvel's long-term future."

Marvel has also insisted the suit is not an attempt to halt production of the Spider-Man sequel, with star Tobey Maguire reprising the role as the web-slinging superhero.

Sony, on the other hand, maintains the suit is simply a ploy to renegotiate a better licensing deal, which Marvel originally signed in 1999. Sony asserts Marvel executives have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the pact, especially with their share of box office and home entertainment revenues for the last year's smash hit Spider-Man.

"Everything they're complaining about we are permitted to do, and have done, under and pursuant to the contract," Sony lawyer Patricia Glaser told Reuters.

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