Some may call it digital karma, but the normally lawsuit-happy entertainment giants Disney and Marvel are currently saddled with a lawsuit alleging that they have infringed the intellectual property of the Oscar-winning motion picture tech company MOVA Contour Reality Capture, in relation to the allegedly stolen technology used to make two of their most recent blockbuster pictures—Guardians of the Galaxy and Beauty and the Beast.
The lawsuit was filed last July 17, 2017, and alleges that the defendants are fully aware of the proprietary technology they used to be owned by Rearden LLC and Rearden Mova LLC, the plaintiffs in the action, and that the company supplying the technology to Disney and Marvel had stolen it from a secured storage facility.
The MOVA Contour technology is used primarily to superimpose captured facial performances onto CG faces, and has been used in numerous other high profile productions such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Tron: Legacy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 and 2, and for a more relevant example – The Avengers, where it was used to project Mark Ruffalo’s facial expressions onto the Hulk CG model.
According to the complaint, while Disney had legitimately licensed use of the MOVA Contour system from Rearden, it was only for four films. The problem is that in 2012, Rearden employee Greg LaSalle allegedly sold off the MOVA Contour system without Rearden’s knowledge to Digital Domain 3.0, and subsequently offered the technology to Disney and its former Lucasfilm subsidiary Industrial Light and Magic in 2013. Both parties eventually dropped out of the negotiations after finding out that Rearden has sent a Cease and Desist order to LaSalle, notifying that they are the owners of the MOVA Contour system.
However, a Chinese company affiliated with Digital Domain 3.0 then claimed that they have bought the MOVA Contour system technology and licensed it to Digital Domain 3.0. “LaSalle had access to the secure storage facility where the physical MOVA Contour apparatus was kept, and assisted DD3 in taking the patented MOVA Contour physical apparatus and copies of the copyrighted Contour Program,” according to the lawsuit. Digital Domain 3.0 then began offering the MOVA Contour system to studios, which included Disney, who went on to use the tech for their films Beauty and the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy.
For more details, you can read the complaint.