Someone Finally Decides to Sue The Asylum: Universal Not Happy About Battleship Knock-Off

Well this is somewhat unexpected, and yet it’s also been a long time coming. By now most movie fans are familiar with The Asylum, a low budget production company that has made a name for themselves by putting out direct-to-video rip-offs of popular Hollywood blockbusters (often referred to as “mockbusters”). Some of their not-so-acclaimed films include Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, Paranormal Entity and Battle of Los Angeles, and they are usually released just prior to the Hollywood equivalent, creating confusion at video rental stores and on Netflix. Up until now, most studios have not really paid much attention to these atrocities, assuming that most consumers are smart enough to be able to tell them apart. This week, however, Universal Pictures has finally taken up arms against them, slapping them with a lawsuit over their upcoming Battleship clone, entitled American Battleship.

According to TMZ, Universal has filed a lawsuit claiming that Global Asylum is infringing on their property and piggybacking on their multi-million dollar marketing campaign. Not only does American Battleship share many plot similarities, but it also includes the name “Battleship”, which is the Hasbro board game that Universal owns exclusive movie rights to. They are asking for an injunction on U.S. distribution of American Battleship and they also want all DVDs, posters, and other promotional materials destroyed. Has The Asylum gone too far this time?

Back in 2008, Fox also threatened to sue them for The Day the Earth Stopped, which was obviously inspired by Fox’s remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. In most cases, however, any attempts at legal action have simply given free publicity to The Asylum (and in this case, they once again stand to benefit from it). They recently issued a response to the lawsuit, claiming that Universal is “looking for a scapegoat… for its pending box-office disaster.” Sadly, I think I might be more interested in American Battleship than Battleship, as it stars both Mario Van Peebles and Carl Weathers. What do you think, is it about time someone put a stop to The Asylum’s shenanigans, or should they be allowed to continue making these terrible rip-offs?

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  • http://lior20.wordpress.com/ Lior

    I usually find most Hollywood lawsuits to be a petty affair, but I have to say that this time I kind of agree with Universal’s stance. The problem with these rip-offs is not the fact that they’re rip-offs, it’s that the titles are made to sound similar and that they are released before the actual movie they are ripping off. “Piggybacking” is an accurate way to describe it. In the past, rip offs came out AFTER the original movie was released, which is a huge difference.
    And no, I don’t think your casual movie renter/streamer would be able to tell them apart. I think it’s confusing even for us.

  • Hugo Van Norr

    Can we sue Universal for wasting time and energy on a POS to begin with?

  • Damon TItus

    Is it too late for Carl Weathers to be in the mainstream release?

  • http://cinefilter.com Nick

    Terrance Mallick wasn’t sued by Apple or Microsoft for using they’re screen savers in Tree of Life. I can’t see how this argument holds water either. :)

  • DMT

    The American Pie people should probably sue as well. People might thing that this movie is the next entry in the American Pie franchise. If you think about it, a battleship is the next logical step for those movies…

  • http://bmovieshelf.blogspot.ca/ Slushie Man

    Asylum is sued all the time, this should hardly be news. They’ve never once lost in-court though. They always win, because the studios don’t have a leg to stand on. The movie themselves are not rip-offs, just the title but there’s always some difference to the title to make it similar but not exact and thus, they’re free to do what they want since if having a similar-but-not-exact title was illegal, many many other movie companies would be sued as well.

  • Wintle

    Most of my favourite movies are rip-offs. Asylum is doing the Lord’s work.

  • Big Hungry

    @ Nick that is a very good point… also Asylum is kind of the Weird Al of the movie industry. Universal needs a sense of humor but I really think this is all a PR stunt for Universal’s shitty movie that is coming out. Oh and also MIchael Bay needs to sue Battleship for ripping off the Transformers look and feel… to bad they are both Hasbro.

  • http://www.twitter.com/nakedgord NakedGord

    Meh…it’s these bad b-rate movies which make movies enjoyable. Most of these blockbusters are bad jokes without the laughs. At least the low budget movies don’t pretend otherwise.

    I still can’t believe Hasbro owns the Battleship name.

    Guess they’ll be suing to get all copies of Battleship Potemkin pulled from the market.

  • rjdelight

    Wait, did you say Mario Van Peebles AND Carl Weathers. I’ll take that over John Carter on a boat any day of the week.

  • Owozifa

    I just think of all movies this seems the least likely to hold the lawsuit just because “battleship” is a regular old word that’s hard to lock down. I always thought Transmorphers was the closest they danced with doom.

  • Gary B

    I think Universal is suing them over this because they know that Battleship is a POS of a movie that they spent way too much $$$ on. Are afraid this mockbuster will hurt ticket sales.

  • Jeff M

    Filing suit over this issue is a waste of serious money and time. Plots will never and can not ever be copyrighted or protected. Understandable that there might be an approachable idea that there is “piggy-backing”, but if you enforce that premise…now you are gonna have a circus act on which studio is allowed to have the sci-fi movie for the month/summer/week regardless of name…which will create a barrier-to-market for businesses. The show names are differentiated enough (really, you can’t read the title?..if not, the general public reading IQ has just sunk from 7th grade to 3rd grade) along with trademark (icons, logos, and corporate dress). Proving “mood” or scene copying and consumer-confusion is going to be a court room filibuster. I’m afraid if this case even remotely wins, you are going to start seeing the Hollywood Gestapo in full force and say hello to higher movie rates to cover Big Company Hollywood censorship. Next thing you know, YouTube will be censored because there is already too many videos on ‘how to wash a cat’. Should cat washer’s sue each other? I mean, it’s the same words in a name and the action happens with water. CatWash vs WashCat…film at 11.

  • David A

    I think many people are missing the point. If you care about writers, care about filmmakers, then there has to be some level of protection from their work being stolen. If a studio like Asylum does everything they can to rip off as much as they can of the original work can’t be successfully sued, what level of protection does any filmmaker have?

  • http://imobowel.info Moby

    “…any attempts at legal action have simply given free publicity to The Asylum.” Bingo!

    The Asylum is not trying to co-opt the intellectual property itself, they are just taking advantage of the tens of millions of dollars that are being spent to promote the title/word ‘battleship’. The Asylum is just taking the whole riding the promotional wave thingy to a whole new level.

  • chris

    The people on this website commenting on how dare Universal sue over Battleship, oh its a POS film. They need to think about it more, that’s not the point. It’s they are trying to piggyback off someone, they do it all the time and someone called their hand on it. I think in the future if The Asylum doesn’t watch out they may have more lawsuits like this. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe there anything made for laughs, these usually look so made for cheap cash and Syfy channel rights it isn’t even funny.

  • Roger

    I just watched the beginning of this on SyFy thinking it was the original – which I had actually seen before and liked. So I was looking forward to a relatively good hour or two’s entertainment.

    Obviously I was staggered at the crappiness of the Asylum version, the pathetic CGI, awful acting, stupid plot and cheap sets. I actually laughed out loud at the “military base” they were using that was overgrown with grass and weeds and yet had a row of jet fighters superimposed on a strip of cracked concrete that was supposed to be a runway.

    Asylum insult our intelligence, steal money from their sales that should be going to the original film creators and waste the time of viewers who for a few minutes think they are going to be entertained by a reasonably good film.

    SyFy channel should also be sued for showing this crap and wasting broadcasting time on it.

    I hope both SyFy snd Asylum cease to exist soon.

  • Joel Friday

    I think the vast majority of the moviegoing public doesn’t care one way or the other. The vast majority of movies made within the last 10 years are boring superhero movies (I hate superhero movies), remakes (both foreign and domestic), and unnecessary rehashing of tired franchises (Terminator, Die Hard, Aliens, Predator, Friday the 13th, etc.). While budgets increase for movies, storytelling and content decreases.

    The entertainment industry has been remaking movies and shows on a large scale for over a decade now. The only difference is they pay to blatantly remake stuff. Asylum is making remakes as well, they just aren’t paying for it.

  • RD

    Since I just wasted my $ on a non-returnable DVD of Battle of Los Angeles, thinking it was the theatrical movie Battle: Los Angeles because of the nearly identical title, cover, and storyline, I’m glad they’re getting sued. At the very least they should be required to put “as seen on SyFy” in a prominant place on the cover so the difference is obvious.

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