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Judge Rules New Line Use of 'Diablo' Violates Trademark

July 11, 2001|MEG JAMES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A federal judge ruled that New Line Cinema Corp. may not release a movie under the name "Diablo" because the trademark is held by Blizzard Entertainment, an Irvine-based computer game maker that has marketed a series of games under the name.

Blizzard officials say they plan to produce their own motion picture and want to avoid "consumer confusion."

New Line officials declined to comment Tuesday on the preliminary injunction granted last week by U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles.

The studio had planned next year to release an action thriller titled "Diablo," a story about two undercover DEA agents pursuing a Mexican drug cartel boss known only as Diablo. Studio officials would not say whether they planned to continue the legal fight to use the name.

The judge's order prevents New Line from using the word Diablo in conjunction with other words.

Blizzard, a division of Vivendi Universal interactive publishing, sued New Line in February and asked the judge in May to block the studio from using the Diablo name. Blizzard registered the trademark in 1996 for what became a series of role-playing games--"Diablo," "Diablo II" and "Diablo II: Lord of Destruction"--involving dragons, monsters and magic.

"There is just a huge following for the Diablo franchise," Paul Sams, Blizzard's senior vice president for business development, said Tuesday. "We've spent millions and millions marketing and promoting these products. We feel that we have staked out a claim to the Diablo name."

The company has hired a writer to come up with a screenplay for an action or animated Diablo motion picture, Sams said. "We're trying to lay the groundwork to bring Diablo to the silver screen. We've gone out into the town and talked to producers."

There have been dozens of movies, mostly Spanish-language films, with the word Diablo in the title, including 1934's "Cruz Diablo."

In granting the injunction, Judge Cooper wrote that there might be some "initial interest confusion" if New Line released a film called Diablo.

New Line "would improperly benefit from the goodwill that [Blizzard has] developed" from the Diablo game series, Cooper wrote in her 18-page order.

Blizzard also markets the Warcraft and Starcraft series of computer games.

The company was started a decade ago and assumed the Blizzard name in 1994. Vivendi bought the company two years ago.

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