The estate of famed automaker John DeLorean has filed a lawsuit against DMC Texas, a company that produces custom, made-to-order replicas of the iconic DeLorean automobile, over payments from Universal Pictures for the iconic 1985 classic Back to The Future. Sally DeLorean, John DeLorean's widow, filed a lawsuit in New Jersey federal court, stating that payments made by Universal Pictures, under a 1989 deal John DeLorean struck with the studio, were supposed to go to the estate, and not to DMC Texas, which has no connection to John DeLorean and his original company, the DeLorean Motor Company. Here's an excerpt from the lawsuit below.
"On or about February 13, 2018, an attorney for the Estate wrote to Universal seeking to enforce Mr. DeLorean's rights under the Universal agreement. Universal responded by informing the Estate that a representative of DMC Texas had informed Universal that it owned Mr. DeLorean's rights under the Universal agreement by virtue of the Settlement Agreement, and had demanded payment. In reliance upon these false statements, Universal made a substantial payment to DMC Texas of amounts owed to Mr. DeLorean for many years of unpaid royalties."
Back in 1989, John DeLorean struck a deal with Universal Pictures, so the studio could feature the iconic DeLorean car in advertisements and merchandise. The deal called for DeLorean to receive 5% of net receipts from anything that prominently featured the DeLorean vehicle, but at some point, Universal stopped making the payments. When DeLorean passed away at the age of 80 in 2005, his estate did not possess the agreement and could not enforce the rights.
Sally DeLorean had also sued DMC Texas in 2015 over intellectual property rights, and settled in 2015. The settlement provided DMC to use the name DeLorean without being further challenged by the estate, but the settlement did not transfer any contractual rights to DMC Texas, and did not even bring up the 1989 agreement John DeLorean made with Universal. This new lawsuit demands that DMC Texas turns over the money Universal paid them with the claim of "unjust enrichment". While DMC Texas has not publicly responded to the lawsuit, the complaint alleges that DMC Texas threatened to sue the DeLorean estate for tortious interference unless their request to Universal for payment was retraced.
Universal Pictures is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, and there is no word on whether DMC Texas or the DeLorean Estate was paid for the use of the DeLorean in the Warner Bros. hit movie Ready Player One. Warner Bros. reportedly went to great lengths to license material to use in the film, but there is no indication any lawsuit against Warner Bros. will be filed anytime soon. The original DeLorean Motor Company produced only 9,000 original DeLorean automobiles before the company went under in 1982, but the vehicles became quite popular again after the release of the 1985 classic Back to the Future. You can head over to The Hollywood Reporter for more on the lawsuit, including a copy of the original 1989 agreement between Universal and John DeLorean.