QED Holdings co-CEOs file trademark infringement and unfair competition suit.
Sasha Shapiro (pictured at right) and Anton Lessine (pictured at left) have filed a claim against QED International founder Bill Block, QED Pictures and QED International.
In a filing with the US District Court Central District of California Western Division on Wednesday the QED Holdings principals alleged Block, who served as QED’s CEO and director from May 2012-February 2015, “actively and surreptitiously hijacked QED’s assets and siphoned QED’s opportunities for his personal gain.”
The claim asserts that one of the ways Block did this was “to misuse QED’s name and trademarks to establish and operate entities controlled not by QED, but by Block personally.”
The plaintiffs allege, among other things, that Block negotiated a $1m down payment from Chinese investors in Bruce Lee biopic Birth Of The Dragon for QED Pictures, a company they say he formed and fully owned as an individual for his sole personal benefit and without authorisation from QED.
The suit also asserts that Block licensed US rights on the Robert De Niro and Zac Efron comedy Dirty Grandpa to Lionsgate and cut 28 international deals while claiming to represent QED.
Block left QED International in February in a move that indicated he might be preparing to devote more time to Merced Media, the $500m fund he announced last year with PalmStar Media Capital CEO Kevin Frakes and Merced Capital.
Block was understood to be preparing a statement at time of writing.
According to Wednesday’s filing Block and others established QED International in or around 2002 and in May 2012 agreed to sell virtually all the assets of QED International and related entities to Media Content Capital, led by Shapiro and Lessine, for $25m and a 25% equity interest in the resulting new company, QED Holdings.
The new entity received all rights to QED International films at any stage of development or production, as well as all rights to intellectual property including trademarks owned by QED International and related entities.
The plaintiffs claim Block signed a four-year employment contract agreeing to continue as QED’s CEO under which he would in essence remain loyal to QED with his time and ideas.
The filing mentions the Brue Lee biopic Birth Of The Dragon which, the plaintiffs claim, Block took “prohibited, unilateral action to take sole control of and profit from.”
The plaintiffs also claim Block attempted to wrest control of the comedy Dirty Grandpa from QED, which the latter did not greenlight but continued to view “positively” and encouraged Block and his team to turn into a more attractive financial prospect.
In this instance, the filing says Block assigned all Dirty Grandpa rights to DG Licensing, a company he formed in or around September 2014, and negotiated a US distribution deal with Lionsgate and 28 international agreements on this basis.
The plaintiffs say that in all these negotiations Block represented himself as working on behalf of QED.
The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief for the alleged misappropriation and commercial use of QED’s name and trademarks for personal gain and in competition with QED.
In a statement Shapiro and Lessine said, “We are committed to the same high standards that QED has embraced for a dozen years. Notwithstanding the recent change in management, we will continue to support promising new creative endeavours and to stand by our existing commitments in order to ensure that projects in the pipeline have the creative and financial support to come to fruition.
“Toward that end, we will fight for the viability and all legal rights of this company, whether protecting our brand identity or content ownership. We are excited by the opportunities ahead and remain focused on the future of QED.”