In an interview with Crisp Comics, Ray Felix of Cup O’ Java Studio Comix recounts receiving a cease-and-desist letter in September 2010 after he registered a trademark for his comic series A World Without Superheroes. 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, which decides certain cases involving trademarks.
Their original registration for “super hero” and “super heroes,” which received widespread attention when it was renewed in 2006, covers a range of products, from comic books and playing cards to pencil sharpeners and glue. However, Felix argues DC and Marvel have overstepped the bounds of their trademark.
Less than two weeks after the iconic vehicle from the 1966 Batman television series sold at auction for $4.62 million, a custom carmaker was arguing that a federal judge should dismiss DC Comics’ claims that his Batmobile replicas infringe on the company’s trademarks.
The publisher sued Gotham Garage owner Ben Towle in May 2011, accusing his California-based business of manufacturing and selling unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobile (the company also offers a recreation of the TV show’s Batboat). DC seeks a permanent injunction, the destruction of all infringing products and damages of no less than $750,000 for each infringement.
While Towle failed to persuade a judge in February 2012 that the complaint should be thrown out on the grounds that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles,” Law360 reports on Wednesday his attorney took a different approach, arguing that DC waited too long to assert its rights.
DC Comics has taken its objections over a “Superman Workout” to federal court in Sydney, Australia, arguing a Melbourne fitness service should not be allowed to register the trademark.
According to 9News, the publisher is appealing a July decision by the registrar of trademarks that Cheqout Pty’s use of the “Superman Workout” mark, as it was unlikely to deceive or confuse consumers, or lead a significant number of people to presume there’s a connection between the fitness classes and DC Comics.
Ed Kramer’s extradition to Georgia last week on child-molestation charges dating back to 2000 has again cast a spotlight on his relationship with DragonCon, the Atlanta convention he helped found nearly 26 years ago.
The 51-year-old Kramer hasn’t been directly associated with the event since his arrest in August 2000 on charges of sexually abusing two teenage boys. However, he continues to receive annual dividends from DragonCon — $154,000 for 2011 alone, according to Atlanta Magazine — after attempts to buy out Kramer’s stake in the for-profit corporation proved unsuccessful. The litigious Kramer has filed two lawsuits against co-founder Pat Henry and DragonCon/ACE Inc.
But horror author Nancy A. Collins, who was among the first to speak out against Kramer, contends DragonCon organizers haven’t done enough to extricate themselves from its co-founder. And so in a proposal circulated Monday by Stephen Bissette, the former Swamp Thing writer calls for professionals to boycott the convention in an effort “to cut off the flow of money” to Kramer, “who has been using the 150K+ a year he receives each year from DragonCon to avoid trial and manipulate the justice system.”
Creators | Artist J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who) recounts how he and his wife lost everything but their cat and the clothes they were wearing during Hurricane Sandy — and how what happened afterward changed his perspective: ““When things are going right, you really don’t know what kind of world you’re living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.” [The Conway Daily Sun]
DC Comics has settled its trademark-infringement lawsuit against a Florida barbershop owner it accused of using its Superman logos without permission, Law360 reports. Details of the agreement weren’t immediately available.
The publisher filed the lawsuit in September against Reginal B. Jones, owner of Supermen Fades to Fros in Eatonville and Winter Park, claiming his shops exploited the Superman trademarks for signage, barber capes and marketing materials (photos on the Fades to Fros website show as much).
Former actor Peter Robbins, best known as the original voice of Charlie Brown, was set to be arraigned today in San Diego on charges that he threatened a police officer, a doctor and two others with death. “AAUGGGHH!!” indeed.
U-T San Diego reports the 56-year-old Oceanside, California, resident was arrested Sunday night returning from Mexico after border security discovered he had an outstanding warrant in San Diego County. He was booked early Monday and held on $550,000 bail until his arraignment today on four felony counts of making a threat to cause bodily harm or great bodily injury and one count of stalking.
Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who hasn’t been associated with the show since 2000, has been brought back to the Gwinnett County Jail and booked on child molestation charges that date back to August 2000. The 51-year-old Kramer was released on bond after his initial arrest following accusations that he sexually abused three boys, and has avoided jail and court for more than a decade because of his health problems, although he was under house arrest for a while. He was arrested again in Connecticut in 2011 for violating the conditions of his bond after he was allegedly found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. Atlanta Magazine ran a lengthy expose on Kramer last year. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
The popular owner of Legends in Rome, Georgia, Lee was arrested in 2004 after participating in a trick-or-treat event in which thousands of comics were given away for free. Among the books was Alternative Comics #2, which contained an excerpt from Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel The Salon depicting a nude Pablo Picasso in a non-sexual context. The comic accidentally was given to a minor, whose parents filed a complaint with the police. Although Lee acknowledged the mistake and offered to make a public apology, he was arrested and charged with two felony counts of distributing material depicting nudity or sexual content and five misdemeanor counts of unlawful disposition of materials to minors. Several of those counts didn’t name victims.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund became involved with the case in early 2005, challenging the constitutionality of the law as well as the counts that didn’t name victims. Subsequently, the felony charges and two misdemeanor counts were dropped. However, the case trudged on, with charges dropped and then refiled, hearings postponed and then, in November 2007, a mistrial was declared before opening statements could be finished. Finally, in April 2008, Lee’s case was dismissed entirely.
Texas authorities are trying to track down comic books worth hundreds of thousands of dollars purchased by an attorney accused of embezzling more than $9 million from his employer.
Anthony Chiofalo, 51, appeared Monday in a Houston courtroom after spending seven months fleeing felony theft charges with at least $150,000 in cash he’d allegedly siphoned from Tadano America. An attorney who had been disbarred in New York, Chiofalo was hired by the company in 2009 as head of legal affairs; within a year, prosecutors say he began setting up dummy law firms that charged his employer for litigation work — to the tune of $9.3 million.
The Houston Chronicle reports Chiofalo is said to have spent a significant chunk of that money of comic books and sports memorabilia: When his home and storage units were raided, authorities found a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a first-edition Playboy, and a copy of Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000.
Legal | Both Warner Bros. and automobile customizer Mark Towle have filed for summary judgment in the studio’s 2011 copyright-infringement lawsuit against Towle, whose Gotham Garage sold several replicas of the Batmobile. Warner, the parent company of DC Comics, claims the design of the Batmobile is its intellectual property, while Towle argues that copyright law does not regard a “useful object,” such as a car, as a sculptural work and therefore the design can’t be copyrighted. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Crime | Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, are investigating the theft of 600 X-Men comics, dating back to the 1970s, from the communal storage area of an apartment building. [Journal Star]
The U.S. government reportedly has seized an advance payment to artist Tim Hamilton for his work on nonfiction graphic novel detailing the activities of notorious Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony in the Congo, claiming the money was being laundered for a terrorist organization.
The news comes from journalist David Axe, who collaborated with Hamilton on Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa, which was serialized online by the Dutch website Cartoon Movement. It will be published next year by Public Affairs.
According to a press release, the title Army of God, which is also the name of a terrorist organization, “threw up a red flag” with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the division of the Department of the Treasury that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions. The money was seized early this month, and neither Hamilton nor his agent have been able to secure its release; the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been contacted.
Cartoonist Matt Bors, who edited Army of God, offers: “OFAC hasn’t responded to my request for comment yet, but their answering machine urged me to visit the U.S. Treasury’s website. Comics wouldn’t be a great way to fund terrorism. They don’t pay very well. But now we know no one fighting terrorism knows how to use Google, which sure makes me feel safe.”
Hamilton, who’s worked on titles ranging from Green Lantern to Deadpool to MAD, illustrated the Eisner-nominated adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451.
Legal | A federal judge this week made final his Oct. 17 decision that the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics, triggering an almost-immediate appeal to the 9th Circuit by Shuster estate lawyer Marc Toberoff. Jeff Trexler delves into the legal strategy behind the attorney’s motion for final judgment. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Todd McFarlane has settled his lawsuit against former employee Al Simmons, who earlier this year released a book in which he claimed to be the inspiration for Spawn. McFarlane had accused Simmons of violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
In a Facebook post that was disseminated this morning by Bleeding Cool, longtime creator rights advocate Stephen Bissette revealed that Marvel’s parent company sent a cease-and-desist demand to Lee and Kaluta challenging their ownership of Starstruck, which was released briefly in 1985 and 1986 under the publisher’s Epic Comics imprint. But what initially appeared to be an instance of a media conglomerate bullying creators may have been a simple, if nerve-wracking, mistake on Disney’s part.
“Just to make sure that things don’t veer into the realm of ‘truthiness,’ Michael Kaluta and I received a letter that challenged our ownership of Starstruck and used the words, ‘please stop all sales and other related activities,’” Lee clarified later today. “Through our lawyer, we provided two letters from Marvel’s former publisher, Mike Hobson, that backed our ownership of Starstruck. Things seem to have calmed down now. The situation seems to have been resolved. (I’m overusing the word ‘seems,’ so as not to jinx myself. Knock wood.) It was scary. At first, we weren’t sure we could find the 3-decades-old documents we needed. (From way back in the pre-digital days, youngsters. We’re talking paper here. Dusty, old, yellow paper.) But there is no lawsuit. We think it may either have been about Disney’s teen movie of a couple of years back, also called Starstruck. They may have found us while looking for people infringing on their property. Or they may have been simply trying to figure out what they still owned. But it was a frightening way to do it. So, this may have been an aberration, or other Epic creators may hear from them. Who knows? But creators may want to scare up that old paperwork. It can’t hurt and might save you several days of abject fear.”
A Marvel spokesman had no comment when contacted by Robot 6.