On August 4 of this year, a file was claimed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington regarding the popular Angry Birds franchise. Plaintiff Juli Adams, a Seattle artist, states in the lawsuit that her intellectual property was sold off to publisher Rovio by pet product store franchise Hartz Mountain Corporation without her express knowledge or agreement.
Adams started reaching an agreement with defendant Hartz in 2006, when the company approached the artist to create a pet toy line, titled Angry Birds. This exclusive agreement would state “no transfer of ownership” and only had limited licensing rights, which would prevent the transfer of the brand.
In 2009, however, Hartz entered a deal with publisher Rovio for the Angry Birds games, to create products together. This would violate the agreement Hartz was still running with Adams.
Anthony Shapiro of law firm Hagens Berman stated that given the magnitude of Angry Birds success, producers Hartz have been benefitting without Adams in the picture. In the release, it states:
Hartz has made tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars from sales of the Angry Birds pet toys.
Adams claims that their last royalty payment from the Angry Birds toy line deal dates back from 2011 and constitutes of a sum of $40.66.
It’s important to note that this lawsuit doesn’t directly affect Rovio, which the gaming community would link to the Angry Birds franchise. In the claim, it states that Rovio explicitly omitted their trademarks for pet toys, as this had been registered by Hartz in 2007.
Shapiro is a returning partner for gaming matters. Their law firm was also the one to handle the suit from Robin Antonick against EA, where the programmer sought compensation for using their work in the Madden franchise. Later, Hagens Berman also defended the case in the NCAA Football likenesses suit against EA.
Contracts are hard. We suggest watching episode “Contractual Obligations” from Penny Arcade’s Strip Search to get an idea of the dealings in this case.