A replica of the time-traveling DeLorean, featured in the film ‘Back to the Future’, owned by Jeplan Inc. sits for a photograph in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg)

DeLorean Widow’s Suit on ‘Back to the Future’ Royalties Tossed

(Bloomberg) -- Early in the 1985 movie "Back to the Future," Marty McFly expressed incredulity that Doc Brown had built a time machine out of a DeLorean, a sports car with gull-winged doors and stainless steel panels.

"The way I see it," Doc said to Marty, "if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?"

The aesthetic of the DMC 12, the car’s official name, gained real-world value, thanks in part to the time-travel franchise’s success. Sally DeLorean, the widow of automaker John DeLorean, had been trying through a lawsuit to collect ongoing royalties from Universal Pictures for promotional uses of the car’s image and branding.

John DeLorean in 1989 had made a deal with Universal that gave him and his heirs 5 percent of net receipts from merchandising and promotions that featured the car and logo. But a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey, on Friday dismissed DeLorean’s lawsuit against Humble, Texas-based DeLorean Motor Co., a company formed in 1995 that has no relation to the original car’s inventor.

The reason? Sally DeLorean, U.S. District Judge Jose Linares wrote in his opinion, gave up her rights to royalties in 2015, when she settled an earlier lawsuit against DMC. That settlement granted DMC "worldwide rights" to use the names and trademarks, including for "related brand merchandising and licensing."

Linares denied Sally DeLorean’s request that DMC hand her all payments it had received from Universal, citing "the clear overlapping language of the agreements."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.