U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

DeLorean Widow Loses Royalties Case

It turns out you can go back to the future only in the movies, not in royalty claims.

So it seems for Sallie DeLorean in DeLorean v. DeLorean Motor Company. The widow of carmaker John DeLorean sued for royalties the car company received through merchandising and commercials from the Back to the Future movies.

If you didn't know it, the movies made more money than the car. But the plaintiff will get none of that because, well, it's in the past.

DeLorean Agreement

A judge dismissed the widow's lawsuit based on a settlement agreement in 2015. That's when she settled a similar case with the company.

In the settlement, DeLorean retained the right to her husband's name and life story. The company, however, retained the right to use the DeLorean name and a stylized logo.

The company went on to receive royalties from Universal Pictures based on the DMC-12 sports car. In the movies, the iconic vehicle is transformed into a time machine.

The plaintiff sued under a separate agreement she had with Universal for merchandising and commercials.

Universal Agreement

However, Judge Jose Linares said her claims were barred by the 2015 settlement.

"Considering both agreements pertained to the merchandising of similar items associated with the DeLorean automobile's image, brand, and related trademarks, as contemplated by the 2014 action and the clear language of the agreements, the court concludes that plaintiff's claims under the Universal agreement were incorporated in, and therefore barred by, the settlement agreement," the judge wrote.

The DeLorean car didn't make enough money, and so the company filed for bankruptcy in 2005. It was refounded in 2016, but the movie car is history.

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