Legal Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Supreme Court won’t hear Stan Lee Media appeal

stan-lee

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Stan Lee Media’s case against Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, bringing to a definitive end at least one part of a legal battle that’s been waged for the better part of a decade.

The action lets stand the 2012 dismissal of a lawsuit seeking million in profits and ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Lee, co-founder of the failed dot-com. Stan Lee Media had argued in its petition to the justices that the Ninth Circuit erred in October when it upheld the lower court’s decision.

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Brewery to redesign beer label over ‘Powers’ art similarities

Comparison courtesy of Myron Campbell

Comparison courtesy of Myron Campbell

A Canadian brewery is headed back to the drawing board after learning a label for its new line of comics-inspired beers looks a lot like one of Michael Avon Oeming’s drawings from Powers.

The Surrey Now reports Central City Brewers in Surrey, British Columbia, will stop all shipments of Detective Saison — the first in a series of beers intended to tell a larger story — while the logo is redesigned. “I can tell you that we’re in a very awkward situation right now,” company executive Tim Barnes told the newspaper, while not commenting directly on the similarities.

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Retail giant says ‘neigh’ to cartoonist’s walmart.horse domain

walmart horse

Jeph Jacques, creator of the long-running webcomic Questionable Content, may have come up with the website walmart.horse on a whim, but global retail leviathan isn’t amused. In fact, Walmart has demanded the cartoonist, well, stop horsing around.

Jacques explained to Ars Technica that the webpage was inspired by the latest batch of Top Level Domains, domain-name extensions that reflect different interests. “The idea behind the site started out as a conversation with a friend of mine — we were extremely amused by the new .horse TLD and decided to register a bunch of ridiculous domain names with it,” he said.

One of these was walmart.horse; the page consists entirely of the image above, which itself is composed of two public-domain photos superimposed on one another. Jacques calls it “postmodern Dadaism — nonsense-art using found objects.”

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Stan Lee Media asks high court to revive suit against Stan Lee

stan-lee

After losing one lawsuit after another in its eight-year battle for many of Marvel’s most famous characters, Stan Lee Media is looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for a reversal of fortune.

In a filing made public Friday, and first reported by Law360, the failed dot-com asked the justices to revive its lawsuit against co-founder and namesake Stan Lee, arguing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in its October dismissal.

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Stan Lee Media loses yet another bid for Marvel characters

marvel superheroes

Placing what very well could be the final lump of coal in Stan Lee Media’s stocking, another federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the failed dot-com can’t claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by its namesake.

As ROBOT 6 readers are well aware, the litigious shareholders of Stan Lee Media have long insisted that between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Stan Lee’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract, and November 1998, when he entered into a new agreement, the legendary writer signed over to Stan Lee Entertainment (later Stan Lee Media) his likeness and the rights to all of the characters he co-created.

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Texas company sues DA’s office over stolen comics

A copy of "All Winners Comics" #1 was among the stolen comics

A copy of “All Winners Comics” #1 was among the stolen comics

A Texas company has sued Harris County and its district attorney’s office over high-priced comic books that were seized in an embezzlement case, only to be stolen by investigators.

As you may recall, attorney Anthony Chiofalo was charged in January 2013 with siphoning from employer Tadano America upwards of $9.3 million, much of which he spent on sports memorabilia and vintage comics, including a Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000. His house and storage units were raided, and the collectibles seized as evidence — all standard procedure.

But then two investigators with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office allegedly hatched a scheme to steal some of those comics — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — and sell them at a Chicago convention. Lonnie Blevins, who left the DA’s office before his arrest in February 2013 on federal charges, pleaded guilty in May 2014 to stealing the vintage comics; his former partner Dustin Deutsch was indicted just last month. Not to be forgotten, Chiofalo was sentenced in May to 40 years in prison.

Now, Courthouse News Service reports, Tadano America is seeking damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent concealment, accusing the DA’s office of failing “to notice that their employees removed several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of highly collectible comic books” from storage units. The crane manufacturer obtained an $8.9 million judgment against Chiafalo in 2012, making those comics the company’s property.

Supreme Court to hear dispute over Spider-Man toy

web blaster

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Marvel owes royalty payments to the creator of a Spider-Man toy after the patent for the Web Blaster expired.

As first reported by Courthouse News Service, Stephen Kimble patented the toy in 1990 and then approached Marvel to license the rights. Marvel passed, and when another company began manufacturing a similar toy — it shoots foam string, simulating Spider-Man’s web-shooters — Kimble sued, claiming patent infringement and breach of implied contract.

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Ringleader pleads guilty in robbery that led to comic collector’s death

Rico J. Vendetti

Rico J. Vendetti

A Rochester, New York, businessman admitted Friday he orchestrated a 2010 home invasion that resulted in the death of a 77-year-old comic book collector.

Although Rico J. Vendetti faced federal murder charges, The Buffalo News reports he pleaded guilty to racketeering for planning the robbery of the $30,000 comic book collection of retired custodian Homer Marciniak, and hiring seven people to pull it off.

Prosecutors contend that Vendetti had long operated an eBay scam in which he hired “professional boosters” to steal $665,000 in merchandise from stores in the region and then sell it to him for 25 cents on the dollar. He in turn would list the items on Craiglist and eBay, earning an estimated $42,000 a month.

Vendetti allegedly had a similar scheme in mind when he learned about the classic comic collection of Marciniak, a well-liked man who lived alone in the village of Medina, New York. Authorities say the hired criminals cut the phone line to Marciniak’s house on July 5, 2010, only to be confronted by him once they were inside. The burglars beat the homeowner and knocked him to the floor, and made off with the comics, safes, cash, coins and guns.

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Former investigator indicted in theft of vintage comics

A copy of "All Winners Comics" #1 was among the stolen comics

A copy of “All Winners Comics” #1 was among the stolen comics

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, has indicted a former investigator for the district attorney’s office accused of stealing thousands of dollars in rare comics.

The Houston Chronicle reports Dustin Deutsch was indicted Tuesday on charges of felony theft by a public servant and tampering with evidence, stemming from an embezzlement case he and his former partner Lonnie Blevins were investigating in 2012 for the district attorney’s office.

Blevins was arrested in January 2013 following an FBI investigation into the theft of rare comics seized from the home and storage units of Anthony Chiofalo, a corporate attorney who embezzled $9.3 million from his employer, and then spent a sizable chunk of the money on high-priced collectibles, including a copy of Detective Comics #27 valued at $900,000.

Blevins pleaded guilty in May to taking more than $5,000 worth of those comics and selling them at a convention in Chicago. He’s awaiting sentencing.

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Spanish soccer team abandons new bat logo after DC challenge

batman-valencia

A Spanish soccer club has decided not to use an updated version of its traditional bat emblem, avoiding a possible legal fight with DC Comics.

News surfaced last week that the publisher had opposedd the trademark registration by La Liga club Valencia C.F., insisting the new variation of the team’s bat crest too closely resembles the familiar Batman emblem.

But now, The Guardian reports, Valencia says it no longer plans to use the new design after DC “presented its opposition to the request.” The club emphasized “there does not exist a lawsuit by DC Comics.”

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Batman and Joker take their fight to New York City Council

joker-batman

Longtime arch-enemies, Batman and The Joker faced off once more on Wednesday, only this time about a plan to require Times Square’s costumed characters to be licensed.

Wearing makeup and a red suit embellished with black bats, the Clown Prince of Crime told New York City Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee that the bill amounts to “fascism.”

“I might look like a clown but I’m speaking from the heart,” the New York Daily News quote The Joker, aka Keith Albahae, as saying. “I do this from my heart and not for tips. OK, I do ask for tips. And many people are glad to give them, but this is about the First Amendment and this is about discrimination. This straight-up seems like fascism.”

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DC argues Spanish soccer club logo is too much like Batman’s

batman-valencia

DC Comics is reportedly challenging the new logo of a Spanish soccer team, insisting it too closely resembles the familiar Batman emblem.

According to Eurosport, La Liga club Valencia C.F. sought to register a trademark for a variation of its crest, leading the publisher to file a complaint with the European Union’s Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market.

As the website notes, the bat has been used in Spanish heraldry since the 13th century, and is part of the coat of arms of Valencia and other cities in eastern Spain. Valencia C.F. has used bats in its club logo since 1919, two decades before the debut of the Dark Knight in Detective Comics #27.

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Donald Duck goes undercover in police crosswalk sting

duck-cops

Dozens of drivers in Fort Lee, New Jersey, were ticketed on Halloween for failing to yield at a crosswalk to a 6-foot-8-inch Donald Duck. Go ahead, read that sentence again.

The police department saw the holiday as a perfect opportunity to deploy its decoy program, and dressed an officer as the Disney character to ensure motorists are stopping for pedestrians. By day’s end, WABC-TV reports, 130 drivers received tickets of $230, plus two points on their licenses.

However, one motorist insists the Duckburg-style sting wasn’t fair, and pledges to fight her ticket.

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It’s official: Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain

watson and holmes4The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to consider a case brought by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, which means the bulk of the Sherlock Holmes stories and characters have officially entered the public domain.

The author’s estate petitioned the high court in September, seeking to overturn a Seventh Circuit finding that 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before Jan. 1, 1923, have entered the public domain.

Doyle’s heirs had long insisted that publishers, television networks and film studios pay a licensing fee to use the characters and story elements. Many, including Warner Bros. and CBS, complied, but Sherlock Holmes expert Leslie Klinger refused to fork over $5,000 while assembling In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. When the Doyle estate sent a letter to the publisher threatening to block sales of the book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, Klinger sued.

In a series of legal defeats, the Doyle estate not only lost any claim to the stories but had to endure stinging public reprimands by Judge Richard Posner, who labeled the licensing fees as “a form of extortion” and praised Klinger for performing a “public service” by filing his lawsuit.

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Stan Lee Media can’t assert Spider-Man ownership in Disney suit

Stan Lee Media

Stan Lee Media

Still reeling from its loss Wednesday in the Ninth Circuit, Stan Lee Media today suffered another defeat in Pennsylvania, where a federal judge ruled the failed dot-com can’t insert itself into Disney’s dispute with a theater company by asserting ownership of Spider-Man.

As you may recall, Disney in September 2013 sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre, claiming its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever used unlicensed elements Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King. However, as Disney’s attorneys later noted, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” when the theater announced it had retroactively licensed Spider-Man … from Stan Lee Media.

That conveniently opened the door for the company to sue Disney, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, an issue Stan Lee Media argued had never been directly addressed by any court. It was certainly a creative maneuver using one of the few potential paths left to pursue its fight with Marvel and Disney (a clearly annoyed judge had warned in September 2013 that any attempt to amend its previous lawsuit against the House of Mouse would be “futile”).

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