Robot 6

Disney seeks to end Stan Lee Media’s pursuit of Marvel heroes

disney-marvel-logoAfter being pursued in court over the past seven years by Stan Lee Media, Marvel and its corporate parent Disney have had enough: On Valentine’s Day, the companies asked a federal judge to put a stop to the failed dot-com’s dogged claims of ownership of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and other lucrative characters.

Filed Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Hollywood, Esq., the motion to dismiss comes as part of what began in September as a seemingly straightforward copyright- and trademark-infringement lawsuit involving the use of elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a musical revue staged by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre.

However, as Disney states in its filing, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” with the surprising assertion in November from the theater that it had licensed Spider-Man … from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (it should be noted the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That conveniently opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to its co-founder and namesake, to sue Disney on Feb. 7, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, other characters co-created by Stan Lee.

“AMT has conspired with SLMI to relitigate issues utterly irrelevant to this dispute by asserting that it has a license from SLMI to use the Spider-Man character,” Disney charges in its motion. “SLMI is actually a dissolved company whose sole activity appears to be litigating — and repeatedly losing — claims that it owns the copyrights to characters that Marvel has owned and openly exploited for decades, including Spider-Man.”

Indeed, Stan Lee Media has yet to win any of the numerous lawsuits filed since 2006 in an effort to reclaim properties the company claims were improperly lost during its bankruptcy. (Marvel and Disney haven’t been the only targets: An appeals court last year denied SLM’s bid for the rights to the Conan characters, which were purchased in 2000 but then sold two years later, shortly after the company filed for bankruptcy.)

As ROBOT 6 readers know, Stan Lee Media is nothing if not tenacious; it hasn’t been deterred by either repeated losses nor a warning in September from a clearly annoyed federal judge that any attempt to amend its previous lawsuit against Disney would be “futile.” But SLM maintains that none of the earlier rulings has directly addressed its ownership claims, and in the American Music Theatre licensing dispute, the company apparently sees another pathway to reach the outcome it seeks.

And, as Hollywood, Esq., notes, SLM has some deep pockets to draw from — an investment group backed by the $21 billion hedge fund Elliott Management — allowing the company to continue its pursuit of the Marvel characters.

However, in its motion, Disney asserts that not only have four federal courts precluded SLM from relitigating its ownership of the copyrights based on its 1998 agreement with Stan Lee, but that SLM’s claims are barred by a three-year statute of limitations. In short, Disney says, the dot-com had known “since its earliest transactions personally with Stan Lee” that Marvel asserted ownership to Spider-Man and the writer’s other co-creations,  and could have raised objections at that time.

What’s more, Disney says, Stan Lee Media is an “administratively dissolved corporation that lacks the capacity to license.”

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Comments

9 Comments

Zombie corporation.

Excelsior Jenkins

February 19, 2014 at 9:56 am

They are sullying the good name of Stan Lee!

‘Transmogrify’ in a legal document!

Even if Stan Lee and/or his legal reps were… shall we say, inattentive (or drugged) enough to say he owned the classic Marvel characters he co-created & “hey, go ahead & take’em”, I Very Seriously doubt that they were his to give. Even though Lee has been paid well by Marvel in recent years, that’s as a defacto (if not actual) president & spokesperson, as well as producer on so many movies & TV shows. I doubt that Marvel Comics in the ’60s would have given Lee ownership of his co-creations, and that Marvel & its various owners of the ’70s & onward who reward even their most prominent writer/editor/figurehead with all the legal character rights, especially given their responses to legal challenges from Marv Wolfman and Especially the heirs/estate of Jack Kirby. In short, of the company men would let those characters & all the licensed material (& income thereof) just leave their grasp, I’m George Clooney’s even more handsome teleporting brother.

(Instead, I’m apparently, just maybe in the aspect of logic, somehow smarter than one or more chowderheads from an investment group and/or it’s multi-Billion dollar hedge fund. Geebus.)

Marvel wasn’t giving up anything–
The only guy who gets any rights are Steve Ditko
He made sure it was in a clause-
Marvel has been wrong and continues to be wrong
After having everyone who ever was in the industry say
Give Kirby back his work–and they never did-

And also marvel practices in holding original art and how they store
It were horror stories for years——

With out Stan Hulk Spider-Man Fantastic Four
Would not be who and what they are—

He IS marvel—maybe he is asking too much and they were work for hire creations
But after being marvel president and publisher and being in the movies—-

Give him something—I’m kinda on the fence about this cause I know Stan has gotten a lot
But I think it goes back to his relationship with Jim Shooter—

Ed you do realize that this company doesn’t have Stan Lee working for them right ? In fact Lee left SLM in like 2001 or 2002. Before these lawsuits were even dreamed up. Its a company using his name to sue repeatedly. Stan Lee makes a very good yearly salary from Marvel. He travels to cons and makes a very good salary at that as well.

If you look it up online Stan Lee is worth over $200+ million. So he’s not hurting for money at all.

Excelsior Jenkins
February 19, 2014 at 9:56 am

They are sullying the good name of Stan Lee!

Hahahahahahaha! Good name? Taking creator credit of characters he had no hand in creating?

If I remember correctly, Stan Lee Media sued Stan Lee as well.

Whoever is behind Stan Lee Media seem like a real parasite, launching dishonest, harassing lawsuits in an effort to make a quick, easy buck. I would probably despise them, except for the fact that they are being such a nuisance to Marvel and Disney, two companies which have repeatedly used their corporate & legal clout to screw over numerous creators in the past. So in a way it does feel a bit like poetic justice.

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