Auto Culture

DeLorean Estate Sues Universal Over Back To The Future Car Payments

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The iconic DeLorean from “Back to the Future” fame is back in the news again as the estate of John DeLorean is suing over payments for the rights to use images of the car specifically from the film.

Universal Pictures has been paying money to use the image of the car, but in a new lawsuit filed by Sally DeLorean, the widow of John DeLorean, that payment, she alleges, has been funneled to the DeLorean Motor Company [DMC] instead of her.

In 1989, John DeLorean’s deal with Universal allowed the studio to feature the car in advertising and merchandising in exchange for 5% of net receipts from any merchandising and commercial tie-ins that utilized the DeLorean time machine as a key component. Universal made payments but allegedly stopped when Delorean died in 2005, as his estate didn’t have the agreement to enforce rights.

Sally DeLorean previously sued the DeLorean Motor Company over intellectual property rights and settled in 2015. That settlement provided DMC the ability to use the name “DeLorean” without further challenge from the John Delorean Estate, but failed to specifically address John DeLorean’s “Back to the Future” arrangement with Universal.

Universal has responded to Sally DeLorean’s request for payment by informing the estate that a representative of DMC Texas had informed Universal that it owned Mr. DeLorean’s rights [by virtue of the settlement], and had demanded payment. Universal then made a substantial payment to DMC Texas of amounts owed to Mr. DeLorean for many years of unpaid royalties.

DMC Texas is alleged by Sally DeLorean to not be the owner of John DeLorean’s specific rights as they pertain to his advertising/merchandising deal with Universal for specific usage of the car as a time machine for “Back to the Future”.

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