Sam Raimi wins lawsuit, retains Evil Dead rights

Evil Dead

In May we reported on a legal debacle stemming from an argument over the ownership rights to the Evil Dead trademark. You can still read our original piece, but the short version is that a company called Award Pictures interpreted a quote by Sam Raimi found in a book published in 2000 as giving it free rein to create its own Evil Dead sequel. Raimi, having decided to revisit the cult classic horror-comedy franchise during the decade-plus since he stated in The Evil Dead Companion that he’d never make an Evil Dead sequel, took issue with Award’s attempts to capitalize on his intellectual property and sued the company to prevent it from using the Evil Dead name in any of its future projects. In turn, Award sued Raimi for the rights to the Evil Dead trademark. As one would expect, the whole thing ended up in front of a California court, and just recently the judge assigned to the case handed down a ruling.

You can read the entirety of the legal document courtesy Deadline’s polite hosting of its .pdf iteration, but you’re all busy people, so we’ll break it down a bit. In sum, Judge Dale Fischer found that Award had no right to use the Evil Dead name, regardless of how it interpreted Raimi’s quote. Raimi will retain the trademark rights to the Evil Dead name, as well as the freedom to use its characters and legally unique situations in any way he or his production company Renaissance Pictures may see fit. Thus, Raimi’s long-in-gestation Evil Dead remake will move forward.

That’s the decision we all expected to hear, but if you have a few moments, you really ought to look over the list of things that Award Pictures is now prohibited from doing. According to the judgment, Award is unable to use the “Evil Dead” name in any of its future projects, and the judge even outlined an official “Prohibited Names” list which includes such titles as Evil Dead: Genesis Of The Necronomicon Part 2 and Evil Dead: Consequences. Further, the judge ruled that Award is now barred from professionally representing itself to anyone as the owner of the Evil Dead trademark (and/or any of its associated marks). Then, just to ensure that Award won’t find a loophole in this ruling which might allow it to continue its attempts to swipe Raimi’s intellectual property rights, the judge threw in a blanket statement barring the company from doing anything that might in any way cause marketplace confusion, or could conceivably convince a potential consumer that Award’s efforts are endorsed by Raimi et alia.

That’s great, totally expected news for Raimi and for the ongoing sanctity of copyright law in America. Normally we’re against any and all copyright restrictions — we read a lot of Boing Boing — but in this case it definitely appeared that Award was simply hoping to capitalize on Raimi’s past work, and as the judge ruled, that’s not very nice. Still, we would have liked to see Judge Fischer hand down some monetary penalties to Award. Not that we think the company should be bankrupted for its legally dubious choices here, but a sizable hit to the wallet would serve as a handy reminder to the higher-ups at Award not to try this kind of stunt again — especially when the target of its scheme happens to have the kind of lawyers that only crazy-rich Hollywood directors can afford.