When you think of the Incredible Hulk you might not think of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, but maybe you should.

Recently a Colorado federal judge dismissed a complaint for copyright infringement brought by Stan Lee Media Inc. against Walt Disney Co. over the rights to the comic characters created by Stan Lee.  These characters include such popular heroes as Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Thor.   SLMI alleged that before Stan Lee sold the copyrights to Marvel Entertainment, who was later acquired by Disney, Mr. Lee had already transferred the rights to them.

Disney dismissed SLMI claims as unfounded and stated that SLMI has a long history of trying to fight the same losing battle.  The judge agreed and remarked that 6 different courts over the span of over a decade have repeatedly decided the issue against SLMI.   He dismissed the suit because SLMI has no claim to ownership of the copyrights, and therefore has no right to bring suit.
This adds another chapter to the unfortunate history of SLMI.  The company went public and later failed during the dot-com bust.  It then filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2001, and the subsequent bankruptcy case was dismissed because they failed to pay the trustee fees.


Artwork for Amazing Spider-Man #547 (Jan, 2008). Art by Steve McNiven.

SLMI has a good reason to continuously engage in this copyright litigation in which they are unlikely to succeed.  But that reason is not the supposed deal they made with Stan Lee a month before he signed over the rights to Marvel Entertainment.  The reason is the $4.24 billion that Disney paid for Marvel in 2009 and the estimated $5.5 billion that the movies, merchandise, and other ventures have made Disney since the acquisition.  Given the long litigation history, you are more likely to see Spider-Man hugging Mickey Mouse than see SLMI get awarded these comic book character copyrights.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +