Mova is not a name that many might have heard of, but the facial animation technology has been used extensively in many blockbuster movies, most recently the record-breaking Deadpool. And according to The New York Times, Mova is now sitting in the middle of a legal battle.
Californian technology incubator Rearden has countersued Shenzhenshi Haitiecheng Science and Technology Company, after the Chinese company sued Rearden the February before. Both entities are claiming ownership over Mova, which has been used in movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and even Gravity.
The New York Times goes into some detail about the convoluted history of the technology. Steve Perlman, who founded Rearden, had also founded a gaming start-up called OnLive, which he merged with Mova. After leaving OnLive in 2012, he attempted to acquire Mova from the company’s controlling investor. Here is where it gets complicated. As Perlman explained in the legal suit, he asked an employee named Greg LaSalle to manage the process, only to have the latter sell the assets to Digital Domain, which is in turn associated with Shenzhenshi.
The Chinese company had a different story to tell, stating that LaSalle had legitimately sold the assets to them. They also claimed that Perlman had “encouraged Mr. LaSalle to try and salvage” Mova on his own, after failing to make a business of the technology. Neither company has responded to requests for comments.
In a curious twist, Rearden has asked a judge to not only award financial damages but also to block the distribution of media made with Mova, which seems unlikely given the popularity of the properties involved. Deadpool, for example, stunned the world with its performance in theatres. It is on its way to becoming Fox’s most lucrative Marvel property, grossing £204 million worldwide over its three-day opening weekend (which, incidentally, makes it the highest ever opening for an R-rated movie in the US).