DC Comics waited too long to file its copyright interference suit in the battle over who owns Superman, says the lawyer of the estates of Man of Steel co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In another round in the multi-front fight between Warner Bros and the estates, attorney Marc Toberoff on Monday cited statute of limitation laws and asked the federal court to dismiss (read it here) the suit DC’s corporate owners filed against him almost three years ago. This move comes less than a month after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals essentially handed WB full rights to Superman in a related copyright case — a big deal for the studio, whose reboot Man Of Steel flies into theaters June 14. In its May 14, 2010 suit, DC Comics claimed Toberoff meddled with the 1992 copyright agreement the company had reached with the two estates. It also alleges Toberoff drafted overriding agreements with the estates in 2001 and 2003 to recapture DC’s Superman copyright interests and to position himself and his companies to secure a controlling financial interest in the families’ claims.
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This week’s motion says that regardless of DC’s claims, they ran down the clock on themselves. “The record shows that DC was on notice of this supposedly tortious conduct by no later than 2006. And yet DC did not file suit that year. Nor did it file in 2007, 2008, or even 2009. Instead, DC sat on its alleged rights, and did not file suit until May 2010 — nearly a decade after the supposed torts had occurred and nearly half a decade after it was put on notice. These state-law claims were filed much too late, and are conclusively barred by the statute of limitations,” says the motion for partial summary judgment. The motion also adds that the Warner Bros-owned comic company’s request for a declaration that the agreements with the lawyer are unenforceable is barred by a four-year statute of limitations, they added. Toberoff and the other defendants (Mark Warren Peary, the personal representative of the Estate of Joseph Shuster, and Jean Adele Peavy, Laura Siegel Larson, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Joanne Siegel, Pacific Pictures Corporation, IP Worldwide and IPW) have requested a March 11, 2013 hearing on their request.
At the same time, motions that WB filed last fall in the case have now been reactivated as the appeal process has wound down. WB’s seeking sanctions against Toberoff and his companies claiming the attorney suppressed evidence in the discovery process in the case. The studio’s lawyer Daniel Petrocelli is aiming to put Toberoff on the stand to answer the claims. That motion will also be discussed in the March 11 hearing. In a separate motion, also scheduled to be heard on March 11, WB is seeking attorney’s fees of $500,000 from Toberoff in the case the appeals court decided largely for the studio.
Deadline’s Dominic Patten – tip him here.
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