Last week, we learned the name of Universal's Marvel-style cinematic universe featuring its classic movie monster characters: Dark Universe, featuring the following lineup: Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's Monster, Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, Sofia Boutella as The Mummy, and Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll. It's also been rumored that the studio wants Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for The Wolfman. It sounds like everything is coming together for Universal's mega-franchise.
But there's just one problem: somebody else was already planning a Dark Universe. Specifically, the movie from Warner Bros formerly titled Justice League Dark, formerly to be directed by Doug Liman, and even more formerly to be directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Buried deep inside a THR feature on Universal's plans is the following volatile bit of information:
But the name Dark Universe could prove problematic for Universal. Warner Bros. already has plans for the title with a supernatural-themed Justice League movie and a series of announced comic books branded under the Dark Universe banner. Warners is mulling legal action, according to a studio source.
THR does seem to have it a bit wrong, however. DC had a Dark Universe comic announced back in 2015, which would have been from the creative team of James Tynion IV and Ming Doyle, but the two dropped out of the project and it was never published.
Unfortunately, @mingdoyle and I had to step away from Dark Universe because of a few more pressing matters.
— James Tynion IV 🦇🦇🦇🦇 (@JamesTheFourth) May 8, 2015
Additionally, DC has a line of announced comics branded Dark Days, Dark Nights, and Dark Matter, and those have also been branded as Dark Multiverse, and maybe that's what THR was thinking of.
Dark Universe has definitely been used to describe the movie starring DC's supernatural characters for a while, so that part is legit. Or is it?
A search of the U.S. government's registered trademark database shows nearly a dozen trademark applications for products under the Dark Universe branding going back to November of 2015. Each of the trademarks is registered to a limited liability company, Dark Universe LLC, formed in Delaware, but registered to the address of 100 Universal Plaza, Universal City, CA, which is also the address of Universal (in case that wasn't clear). Dark Universe LLC was formed in 2011. In addition to entertainment products like movies and TV shows, the trademarks cover toys, stationary, personal hygiene products, ice cream bars, energy drinks, and more. Pretty much anything you could think of, Universal has applied for a trademark for it.
So Universal's claim to the name looks to predate Warner Bros, and this also seems to indicate that Universal had plans to use the name six years ago.
Even still, a massive lawsuit would probably be a bad way to kick off your cinematic universe, all things considered. And if we're being perfectly honest, we're not sure that "Dark Universe" really even fits the tone of the classic Universal movie monsters, so maybe they should let Warners have it? Then again, it does fit the tone of pretty much every grim and gritty reboot of a classic property ever, so it will probably work in that regard, whatever it's applied to.
Anyway, we'll be keeping a close eye on things, and we'll let you know about any new developments.