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Virtual Jackson performance leads to litigation

By | Published on Monday 23 June 2014

Michael Jackson

It often seems like Michael Jackson really did have the golden touch, for the legal profession at least, in that everything he touched turned into litigation. Now even a hologram of Michael Jackson has caused a legal battle, though to be fair it’s not really anything to do with the late king of pop or his estate. But nevertheless, Jackson’s holographic revival at this year’s Billboard Music Awards has resulted in both suit and counter-suit.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the legal battle is between Pulse Evolution, which staged the Jackson routine at the Billboard event, and movie industry entrepreneur Alki David. The latter claims that Pulse, and its Chairman John Textor, utilised without permission patented technology of which he is the exclusive licensee in order to produce the Jackson set. The legal threats kicked off even before the Billboard Music Awards took place, but since then both sides have filed lawsuits.

Though the dispute is slightly more complicated than just ascertaining whether Textor’s company did indeed used patented technology controlled by David, in that the two parties have previous dealings.

David claims that Textor tried to outbid him for the exclusive rights to the technology in question, and then tried to strike up a business partnership to get access to it. And while Pulse calls Musion Das Hologram Limited, the European firm David claims to have a patent licensing deal with, “a defunct company with no assets that had nothing to license in the first place”, it has been working with another European business called Musion Systems Limited, which may or may not be connected.

So far so complicated. In its countersuit, Pulse says that David is a “notorious infringer of intellectual property rights”, and that his allegations against the firm, and claims to be responsible for the technology that allowed the Jackson appearance at the Billboard show, are designed to “divert public and industry attention away from Pulse Entertainment just as the company was being launched”.

Pulse’s lawsuit also takes issue with David’s allegedly frequent references to the effect used in the Jackson spot at the awards show as being a “hologram”, which actually it isn’t.

The legal filing states: “This mischaracterisation of the [Michael Jackson] animation as a hologram highlights David’s complete lack of technical expertise and involvement in the creation and development of the Michael Jackson animation, insofar as the virtual Michael Jackson appearing at the Billboard Award Show was not a hologram at all, rather, it was an animation projected onto a screen”.

And so the dispute continues.