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Thursday, July 3, 2003

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Activision Sues Viacom, Ends Star Trek License
7:41 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

In an interesting move in the high-tech entertainment biz, game publishing stalwart Activision has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against entertainment giant Viacom over their highly-popular Star Trek franchise.

In a complaint filed in the Superior Court of the State of California Monday, Activision has accused Viacom of breaching its fundamental promise to continue exploiting the Star Trek franchise consistent with its practice at the time the licensing agreement was signed in 1998. By letting the franchise "stagnate", Activision claims, Viacom has "significantly diminished the value of Star Trek licensing rights including the rights received by Activision".

Seeking to recover damages it claims to have suffered, as well as lost future revenue, Activision has terminated the license in the fifth year of the ten-year licensing agreement with Viacom. From Activision's court filings:

"Activision cannot successfully develop and sell Star Trek video games without the product exploitation and support promised by Viacom. A continuing pipeline of movie and television production, and related marketing, is absolutely crucial to the success of video games based on a property such as Star Trek."
"...through its actions and inactions, Viacom has let the once proud 'Star Trek' franchise stagnate and decay. Viacom has released only one 'Star Trek' movie since entering into agreement with Activision and has recently informed Activision it has no current plans for further 'Star Trek' films. Viacom also has allowed two 'Star Trek' television series to go off the air and the remaining series suffers from weak ratings. Viacom also frustrated Activision's efforts to coordinate the development and marketing of its games with Viacom's development and marketing of its new movies and television series."
In an official response released yesterday, Viacom has denied Activision's allegations, and is accusing Activision of using the courts "in an effort to renegotiate a deal it made in 1998 to secure the rights to the valued Star Trek franchise for interactive games." Pointing to fourteen Trek-themed products released since entering into the agreement with Activision, the media giant asserted that the popular franchise continues to enjoy widespread popularity. According to a Bloomberg financial report, Activision has alredy paid Viacom $11 million in licensing royalties of the $20 million scheduled over the ten years of the agreement. In addition, VIacom has earned an additional $10 million from Activision stock warrants that were part of the licensing deal.

While the entertainment giants play chess with their intellectual property, the sad result for gamers of all platforms is going to be the end of computer games based on the sci-fi franchise, unless a third party becomes invterested in picking up the license. Mac gamers eager to get their hands on the upcoming release of Ritual Entertainment's Star Trek: Elite Force II should have nothing to fear as the termination of the agreement does not affect existing Star Trek titles. Stay tuned to IMG for more news as the legal proceedings unfold.

Activision Sues Viacom
Star Trek Elite Force II
Aspyr Media
Ritual Entertainment
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