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Sony, Marvel to Use Private Judge

May 21, 2003|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

Sony Pictures Entertainment won a round in court Tuesday in its fight with Marvel Entertainment Inc. over the merchandise profits from the lucrative "Spider-Man" film franchise when a judge said that the two sides should settle their differences using a referee.

Marvel had hoped to bring its claim before a jury. But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III said Marvel had to abide by the contract it signed with Sony, which requires the two sides to use a private judge to settle disputes.

"Even in Hollywood, contracts need to be honored," said lawyer Patricia L. Glaser, who represents the studio.

Marvel lawyer Carole E. Handler said regardless of the decision, "we're looking forward to litigating the case, whatever the forum."

Marvel claims it is being shortchanged by Sony, going so far as to ask in its lawsuit that one remedy might include scrapping its film and merchandise licensing agreement with Sony after the "Spider-Man" sequel is released in July 2004.

Sony argues that Marvel can't do that, and is questioning Marvel's accounting practices. The Culver City-based film studio is demanding an audit of New York-based Marvel's books, and also alleges that the lawsuit is a ploy by Marvel to squeeze more money out of the studio.

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