On Friday, June 27, 2003, Marvel Enterprises filed yet another lawsuit worth $10M against SPIDER-MAN partner Sony, this time specifically Sony Electronics, reported VARIETY. Marvel claims in the suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, that Sony Electronics refused to license the Spider-Man character for its electronic products like radios and portable CD players and has advised sister company Sony Pictures to do the same with competitors. The suit points out that Marvels agreement with Sony is unique because it is a joint partnership, unlike Marvels deals with other film companies where Marvel controls the merchandising and shares royalties with the studios. The tortuous interference suit even alleges that Sony blocked a bid by Emerson Radio to license the hugely popular character. When AWN contacted both Marvel and Sony representatives they said they do not comment on on-going litigation.
This case is just a continuation of the on-going battle between the two companies, which started in April when Marvel filed a $50M suit claiming Sony was trying to filter all merchandising for the Spider-Man character through itself. Sony then countered that suit alleging that Marvel was trying to use legal wrangling to force Sony into renegotiating its deal. In addition, Sony claims that Marvel is in breach of the agreement by using fuzzy accounting for merchandising and pushes its non-movie related Spider-Man items to sidestep paying out a hefty percentage to Sony. Currently, the case is being referred to a retired judge for evaluation.
As an interesting side note, the Spider-Man battle didnt hurt Sonys Columbia TriStar Film Distributors from obtaining the distribution rights to Marvels PUNISHER feature, which is being produced by Artisan Entertainment. Columbia will hold the rights to the international release outside of the U.S. and eight other Southeast Asian and Middle East countries, including China and India. The film is scheduled for release in the Summer 2004. Thomas Jane will play the title character, who turns vigilante after his family is killed by a crime boss, played by John Travolta.