Angry Birds Cat Toy Creator Sues Hartz for Selling Out to Rovio

Angry Birds Cat Toy Creator Sues Hartz for Selling Out to Rovio

Juli Adams says Hartz had no right to sell the trademark, and is seeking a jury trial.

Back in 2006, long before Rovio set the casual game market on fire with birds and pigs, Hartz Mountain Company, one of the largest pet toy makers in the US, hired artist Juli Adams to design a set of cat toys. She came up with Angry Birds, dangly soft critters designed to be mauled, and did one thing many artists don't: she retained complete ownership of the intellectual property. Along comes Rovio and Hartz, seeing an opportunity for profit, promptly sold its trademarks to Rovio without Adams' knowledge or permission.

"When I was first approached, Hartz wanted me to have complete artistic freedom," said Adams, who at the time she made the Hartz deal was a struggling artist doing the West Coast art fair rounds. That was where Hartz found her. "When I was flown off to the East Coast to meet with associates at Hartz, that's when it started to feel real. They told me, 'This is going to change your life.' It got me really excited. I was convinced it would turn things around for me."

Hartz only ever had limited licensing rights over the cat toys - Angry Parrot, Angry Rooster, Angry Hummer and Angry Robin - and that for a period of only five years. That didn't stop it leveraging an exclusive deal with Rovio, using Adams' IP as its bargaining chip. The Hartz-Adams agreement began in 2007 and came to an end in 2012, at which point all associated rights in the property would revert to Adams. Hartz never bothered to renew the agreement, so theoretically Adams now holds all the rights to Angry Birds pet toys.

Even the pet toy packaging referred to Adams by name, gave her website details, and acknowledged that she held the license, which ought to have tipped off Rovio that Hartz was not the sole rights holder. In total, according to the court filing, Adams received $11,228.59 royalties from Hartz, though the Rovio deal it signed would have been worth considerably more than that.

Adams seeks confirmation from the court that she is the rightful holder of the Angry Birds pet toy IP, as well as cash damages equal to three times Hartz's illicit profits. Neither Adams nor her attorneys know how much the damages will be since they don't have access to Hartz's financials, which would tell them how much the Rovio deal is worth. They're hoping for millions, but whether they get it or not is going to be up to the courts.

Source: Scribd

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Well somebody's about to get fired, I mean really, who commisions a designer then hands the designer full rights to IP? More to the point, when it's even printed on the packaging who then goes and sells those right without first buying the designer out? They could have slung her 15% of the sale and she would have been delighted.

What a bunch of idiots, I hope Adams wins and I sincerely hope it makes her a lot of money, no doubt if the tables were turned Hartz would have had no qualms about suing her into homelessness.

fix-the-spade:
Well somebody's about to get fired, I mean really, who commisions a designer then hands the designer full rights to IP? More to the point, when it's even printed on the packaging who then goes and sells those right without first buying the designer out? They could have slung her 15% of the sale and she would have been delighted.

What a bunch of idiots, I hope Adams wins and I sincerely hope it makes her a lot of money, no doubt if the tables were turned Hartz would have had no qualms about suing her into homelessness.

This case seems pretty black and white. You are right, Hartz could have come to her and said "Good news! We've arranged a deal by which we can buy you out for loads of money!" and then used those rights to arrange a deal with Rovio. If they'd taken the work out of it for the artist then that might have been an OK deal for both of them.

BUT she is the rights owner here. If she doesn't take the stupid company to the cleaners then something has gone horribly wrong.

That makes her one angry bird :D

I hope she gets the money.

For once, news of an IP lawsuit that doesn't make me angry to hear. Hartz is gonna get spanked.

How many people here had any idea Angry Birds was based on a licensed property? Or unlicensed, as seems to be the case here.

Still, why is Juli Adams only just now suing over this? Has she really been unaware of the marketing bonanza Angry Birds has grown into this whole time? I am, as usual, suspicious.

So Angry Birds' wasn't even an original concept? I used to have at least a little respect for it, but now it seems it's just as derivative as the majority of mobile games, or anything popular these days.

Good for her, I hope she extracts every dirty penny she can out of Hartz, who obviously acted with malice here in an attempt to screw her out of the money from this deal. Licensing IP they don't own, how pathetic and evil.

Unlike a lot of lawsuits I hear about this one actually seems ligit. It genuinely seems like Adams got screwed over and I hope she wins.

Alexander Kirby:
So Angry Birds' wasn't even an original concept? I used to have at least a little respect for it, but now it seems it's just as derivative as the majority of mobile games, or anything popular these days.

The gameplay certainly wasn't. See crush the castle, for example.

I had thought they were at least responsible for the more appealing design, but apparently that was derivative too.

Steve the Pocket:
How many people here had any idea Angry Birds was based on a licensed property? Or unlicensed, as seems to be the case here.

Still, why is Juli Adams only just now suing over this? Has she really been unaware of the marketing bonanza Angry Birds has grown into this whole time? I am, as usual, suspicious.

Nono. This is about Angry Birds pet toys, and the original Angry Birds pet toys weren't really what the game has.

She owns the name. Hartz sold the rights to use the name to Rovio, and now she wants the money from that.

EDIT: That is, she owns the name as far as it comes to pet toys.

I actually like that angry bird pet toy design more than the ones on the game, to be honest.

ricree:

Alexander Kirby:
So Angry Birds' wasn't even an original concept? I used to have at least a little respect for it, but now it seems it's just as derivative as the majority of mobile games, or anything popular these days.

The gameplay certainly wasn't. See crush the castle, for example.

I had thought they were at least responsible for the more appealing design, but apparently that was derivative too.

Thats a god damn myth that Crush the Castle was first. There is a huge amount of games preceeding Crush the Castle with similar gameplay.

Rainbow_Dashtruction:

ricree:

Alexander Kirby:
So Angry Birds' wasn't even an original concept? I used to have at least a little respect for it, but now it seems it's just as derivative as the majority of mobile games, or anything popular these days.

The gameplay certainly wasn't. See crush the castle, for example.

I had thought they were at least responsible for the more appealing design, but apparently that was derivative too.

Thats a god damn myth that Crush the Castle was first. There is a huge amount of games preceeding Crush the Castle with similar gameplay.

Likely true, but the point is that Angry Birds was in no way the original, despite many people not knowing that it's a shameless ripoff of an older game (I'm sure that Crush the Castle likely wasn't the first one either, but it proves this exact style of gamepaly existed before crappy mobile games were even a thing.)

I hope that she gets a ton of money from this. And I hope that some of it comes directly out of Rovio's pockets (they're guilty too.)

Steve the Pocket:
How many people here had any idea Angry Birds was based on a licensed property? Or unlicensed, as seems to be the case here.

Still, why is Juli Adams only just now suing over this? Has she really been unaware of the marketing bonanza Angry Birds has grown into this whole time? I am, as usual, suspicious.

This suit has been in the works for sometime. And for the record....the video game Angry Birds came out in 2009...Juli's plush toy line was created in 2006. We have been representing her original paintings since 2005 (www.volakisgallery.com)....and have watched this morph over time. She should be compensated for her creative efforts and her intellectual property rights should be restored. We have full faith that the courts will see this corrected. Just sayin....now's a good time to purchase a Juli Adams original! :)

Rainbow_Dashtruction:

Thats a god damn myth that Crush the Castle was first. There is a huge amount of games preceeding Crush the Castle with similar gameplay.

So far as I can tell, it is not a myth that Crush the Castle preceded Angry Birds. I'm not saying that it was the first of that sort (though I personally know of no others), but that it's a prior example of that sort of gameplay.

 

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