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Court Rules New Line Cinema Can't Use 'Diablo' in Film Title

10 Jul, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

New Line Cinema will not be able to use the name 'Diablo' in the title of its 2002 film starring Vin Diesel because Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Vivendi Universal Publishing, has control of thename, a judge has ruled.

Blizzard won a preliminary in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against New Line, a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, over the trademark for Diablo.

Blizzard owns a trademark for Diablo, filed in April 1996 and approved last July. Blizzard also has apending application for a movie called Diablo II: Salvation, filed in February.

Blizzard has sold more than 6.6 million units worldwide of its Diablo PC video game franchise, Diablo and Diablo II. The software company shipped an additional two million units of a PC expansion pack, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, last week.

Paul Sams, senior v.p. of business development of Blizzard Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter he has hired an undisclosed A-list screenwriter to draft a script for a feature film version of the game. He expects the script to be completed in a few months and has been actively talking tonumerous Hollywood producers. Once the script is finished, he will shop the project around Hollywood.

Sams said that although Universal Pictures is expected to be involved in talks, due to the Vivendi Universal ties, he will take this potential film franchise to the right studio and the right creative people.

"We want to ensure that the game universe is correctly translated to film," said Sams. "There have been instances in the past where video game universes weren’t faithfully adapted to the big screen.

"Fortunately, there is a lot of interest in this property thanks to the success of Tomb Raider and wewant to keep a hands-on approach to keep our fan base appeased. We just need to find the right people to make this happen."

The Diablo games are set in a fantasy universe filled with swords and sorcery that pits players against an evil entity called Diablo. The proposed film will be set within the game’s universe, but won’tnecessarily follow the game’s plot.

"There will be hand-to-hand combat like you saw in Gladiator and there will be elements of swordsand sorcery as you saw in Conan the Barbarian, but this film will borrow mostly from the richuniverse that has made the PC games so successful worldwide," said Sams.

Due to the violence and dark themes of the games, which are rated Mature, requiring consumers to be 17 or older to purchase, the film franchise will either have to soften the content for a PG-13 rating or stick with an R rating.

New Line began filming Diablo last November with Vin Diesel in the lead role. The action film,which has nothing to do with the video game, centers on a mysterious figure who emerges to head a drug cartel after the previous leader is imprisoned. The film is slated for a 2002 release.

New Line has also optioned a sequel, Diablo 2, which will be a reality-based urban crime thriller. Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring scripted both films.

Blizzard filed its suit because both its games and future films and the New Line film are targeting the same male 18- to 35-year-old demographics, which could cause could confusion.

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