Robot 6

In fight over ‘super hero’ trademark, it’s David vs. Goliath(s)

world without superheroesThe New York Daily News casts a spotlight on Ray Felix, the small-press publisher who’s challenging the joint claim of DC Comics and Marvel to the “super hero” trademark, and comes away with some interesting details:

  • The two publishers have prevented at least 35 people from using “super hero,” or some variation, since they were granted the mark in 1980 for toys and in 1981 for comic books. (You may remember that in 2004 GeekPunk changed the name of its series Super Hero Happy Hour to Hero Happy Hour following objections by DC and Marvel.)
  • Although Felix admits he’s unlikely to win his case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property tells the newspaper that Marvel and DC’s joint ownership “violates the basic tenet of trademark law.” “A trademark stands for a single source of origin, not two possible sources of origin,” Ron Coleman argues. “If the public understands that the word ‘superhero’ could come from A or B, then by definition that’s a word and not a trademark.”
  • Even if the appeal board were to find in Felix’s favor, it would only mean he can retain his registration for his series A World Without Superheroes. Revocation of Marvel and DC’s trademark would require a costly civil lawsuit.

Felix’s dispute with the comics giants dates back to September 2010, when he received a cease-and-desist letter after registering a trademark for his series. Following more a year and a half of exchanges between Felix and the companies’ attorneys, DC Comics and Marvel Characters Inc. in March 2012 filed a formal opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.



i wish the guy luck for trying to also be allowed to trademark super hero when not only does he face a big battle court wise but the deep pockets dc and marvel have is liable to make any long court fight for him not possible money wise.

Yup the WORD “superhero” should not be trademarked. The fvckin greed in this world is unbelievable.

His lawyer is spot on the money. A title cannot be considered a trademark if it’s registered to more than one brand.

In addition to the “double brand” issue, isn’t “superhero” a generic term that cannot be trademarked in a way that would deter the standard usage of the word? See, for example:

“[T]he more a mark describes the good or service that it labels, the less strong the trademark protection it gets and the more freedom others have to use the same word for other purposes.”

I wonder what would happen to DC and Marvel’s credibility if the courts were to be in Felix’s favor….maybe this would be the start of the public pulling the rug out from under the Big Two.

The argument that a trademark is usually held by one individual and not two is a pretty go one. I wish this guy luck (it’s sorta silly to think ‘superhero’ can be made exclusive in this way

The word superhero appears in Jupiter’s Children and other books that have come out recently. Those seem to be safe. I wonder if the problem is that he has it right on the cover and thus the lawyers noticed it. Is it like a Captain Marvel where as long as it isn’t in the title or on the cover, you’re safe? I read books not from the Big Two all the time that use the word and seem to get away with it.

Yup. Trademarks affect covers not interiors.

Good luck to this guy. The “superhero” trademark is a disgrace and needs killing.

how can dc put out a book sympathizing with the 99% and then pull this crap.

i luv dc & marvels characters but hate MANY of their companies’ business practices.

but then thats why dc ALSO put out the book for the 1% too.

….”i see” said the blind man…”i see”…


i am as pro-capitalist as the next guy but robber barons were and are crooks & tyrants.

there is a thing called ethics & treating others the way you want to be treated (fairly) and the big two, as with other companies with long & varied histories, contain many a black spot on thier treatment of their fellow man….and woman, for that matter.

The stupidity of people never ceases to Amaze me. The characters we love and admire are the exact opposite of the people that run the big two. Alonso’s supposed to be a smart guy, a “man of the people” and DC is releasing a book for the %99( yet copping out with another for the %1). They can have get togethers to jump on a single guy but we still can’t get another Marvel & DC crossover?? I’m not walking out of this without questioning my readership to these guys, especially when it’s over a damn single word. Read you own characters sometimes and take notes you greedy bastards.

@Fero The guys who put out the books, work on the stories, produce the art, edit them all, have zero to do with the guys who are going after indie creators over the use of the word. The publishing branch doesn’t sue people or look to sue people. I’m not going to get mad at Didio, Alonso, Harras, or whoever because the legal department or the Warners trademark division decided to go after someone. Huge company, different divisions and subdivisions. It isn’t the people that run the Big Two that are going after this guy. It is a division or two that answer to suits that probably never even step into a bullpen or an editorial retreat that are to blame.

There were comic books published in the 1960’s called Super-Heroes, not published by DC or Marvel. So you can’t copyright something that was already in common use. I hope he counter sues both companys for damages because of this BS lawsuit they brought against him.

DC & Marvel are being totally silly, as the term ‘superhero’ has been used in real life for probably decades, in the ‘real life superhero movement.’ Similar to how no one can prevent people from speaking in Klingon or something if they choose (and one couple taught it as their child’s primary language,) when ‘superhero’ is a word in real life that refers to people who fight crime and make citizen’s arrests (but who are typically not vigilantes, by the actual definition,) such as Master Legend and Phoenix Jones, and his movement, then such words become not just something copyrighted by a company, but a real word in language.

@ Guy Copes Couldn’t the editors tell the corporate to cut that shit out?

Marvel and DC are at it again they are opposing the title of my book “Business Zero To Superhero”

Leave a Comment


Browse the Robot 6 Archives