Leave it to Homer Simpson to get 20th Century Fox into trouble for allegedly violating a patent.
On Thursday, Alki David's Hologram USA filed a lawsuit that claims a 3D representation of the famous Homer at this year's Comic-Con convention in San Diego infringed its patented system to project three-dimensional images on stage.
The plaintiff has sued before -- most notably, targeting a Michael Jackson recreation at the Billboard Music Awards. David is also doing battle with Pulse Entertainment over his patent demands.
But Hologram USA claims to hold rights to a new version of a 19th century stage trick called "Pepper's Ghost," which the company says was famously used to create the late Tupac Shakur performing at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival.
On July 26, at Comic-Con, those associated with The Simpsons showed up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show and promote the new Simpsons World app, allowing fans to watch any episode of the show they want at any time they want. The lawsuit recounts a 45-minute panel discussion with the show's creator Matt Groening, executive producer Al Jean and others. Near the end, Groening introduced Homer to the stage.
Fox put the moment up on YouTube. Find it below.
When Homer Simpson makes a joke about registration at Comic-Con, Groening replies, "I don't care. I get my free ticket from the hologram of Tupac Shakur."
"As with the Simpson hologram, the Patented Technology was used to create the Tupac Shakur hologram," states the lawsuit. "Unlike the creators of the Tupac Shakur hologram, however, Defendants did not obtain a license or any other authorization to use the Patented Technology for the Performance."
James Brooks' Gracie Films is also a defendant in the case. Fox hasn't had a chance to review the complaint yet and didn't have immediate comment.
The plaintiffs, including Musion Das Hologram and Uwe Maass, are seeking damages for willful infringement.
The lawsuit comes months after The Simpsons featured the issue of piracy in an episode. After being caught by a friend pirating a movie and given some direction, Homer responds, "Theaters? All I need to see this movie is a laptop and a Web site based in a country that's really just an offshore oil platform."
E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com> Twitter: @eriqgardner
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