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Disney and Marvel have reached a settlement with a Pennsylvania theater in a copyright- and trademark-infringement case that unexpectedly turned into another front in their legal battle with Stan Lee Media.
Law360 reports American Music Theatre has agreed to stop using Spider-Man and other Disney properties without permission, bringing to an end a September 2013 lawsuit over the musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever. If the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater violates the permanent injunction and consent order filed Thursday, it must pay $25,000 in actual or liquidated damages per work, plus attorneys’ fees.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
Even as Disney and Stan Lee Media argue their case in one appeals court, another has dealt a setback to the failed dot-com’s feud with its co-founder and namesake.
According to Courthouse News Service, a panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a California federal judge made the right decision in 2012 when he dismissed a shareholder lawsuit against Stan Lee seeking millions in profits and ownership of his Marvel co-creations.
Stan Lee Media has long insisted that between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Lee’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract, and November 1998, when he entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas, the legendary creator signed over his likeness and the rights to all of the characters he co-created — Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, among them — to Stan Lee Entertainment, which later merged with Stan Lee Media. That company in turned filed for bankruptcy in February 2001; it emerged from protection in November 2006, and within months, the first of numerous lawsuits (against Marvel, Lee, Disney and others) was filed.
Legal | Disney on Tuesday asked a panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss a two-year-old lawsuit by Stan Lee Media claiming the copyright to such Marvel superheroes as Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men. A lawyer for Stan Lee Media, which no longer connected to its namesake, argued a federal judge in Colorado erred last year in dismissing the 2012 complaint, but Disney countered that the copyright claims have been addressed time and again by the courts. “This is their seventh bite of a rotten apple,” Disney attorney Jim Quinn said after the hearing. The three-judge panel hasn’t issued its decision. [The Associated Press]
Manga | The finale of Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, which will run in an upcoming issue of Shonen Jump (both the Japanese and the North American editions), will be two chapters long, with the second appearing in full color, the manga magazine announced. Naruto was at one time the bestselling graphic novel in the United States and is still one of the top selling manga in the country. [Anime News Network]
Law 360 reports the failed dot com argued before a panel of the Ninth Circuit that the case shouldn’t have been dismissed in 2012 by a California federal judge simply because an identical action in New York was determined two years earlier to be time-barred. However, Lee’s attorney countered that the lead plaintiff in both shareholder actions was Jose Abadin, president of Stan Lee Media.
The backstory is familiar by now to ROBOT 6 readers, but here’s the CliffsNotes version: In 1998, during Marvel’s bankruptcy, CEO Isaac Perlmutter briefly ended its $1-million-a-year lifetime contract with Lee, freeing the legendary creator to form Stan Lee Entertainment, which later merged with Stan Lee Media. That company in turned filed for bankruptcy in February 2001; just four months after SLM emerged from protection in November 2006, shareholders filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Marvel.
A federal judge in Colorado has awarded Disney $239,941 in attorney fees in one of its legal battles with Stan Lee Media over the rights to the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee — half of what the entertainment giant was seeking.
Law360 reports that U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez on Thursday admonished Disney’s attorneys for requesting $461,882, which he found “grossly excessive,” while also maintaining that Stan Lee Media was unreasonable in its pursuit of copyright claims after three other courts already determined there was no legal basis for the suit.
“It shocks the court’s conscience that defendants would bill almost half a million dollars, or 900 hours, on a case with minimal discovery that was resolved on a motion to dismiss,” the judge wrote.
It was Martinez who in September granted Disney’s motion, dismissing Stan Lee Media’s 2012 copyright-infringement lawsuit and saying it would be “futile” to permit the failed dot-com — which has had no connection to its co-founder and namesake for more than a decade — to amend its claim.
Filed in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, Disney’s reply is the latest volley in what began last summer as a relatively straightforward lawsuit against the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre, which was accused of using unlicensed elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King.
However, as the media giant’s attorneys later noted, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” with the surprising assertion that the theater 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).
The failed dot-com, which hasn’t been connected to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade, in turn sued Disney on Feb. 7, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, other characters co-created by Stan Lee. Disney responded with a motion to dismiss, which was of course opposed by SLMI; the company maintains none of the previous court cases has directly addressed ownership of the characters.
Legal | Those wondering how Stan Lee Media can possibly afford its long, and so far entirely unsuccessful, legal battle with Marvel and Disney may want to read this brief Wall Street Journal article about “litigation finance” — which it characterizes as the growing practice of investing in lawsuits. However, pointing to the fight over the rights to Spider-Man and other characters, writer Rob Copeland points out there are high risks: namely, that investors could never see financial return. As we’ve noted before, Stan Lee Media’s efforts are backed by a group of investors that includes the $21 billion hedge fund Elliott Management, which helps to explain why the lawsuits keep coming. [MoneyBeat]
In documents filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, the failed dot-com again argued that none of the previous cases over the past decade — and there have been many — has directly addressed the merits of its ownership claims. “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” the papers state. “[…] That issue has never been decided, and Disney has now placed it directly before the court in this case.”
“This case” is a copyright- and trademark-infringement 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. What Disney’s lawyers thought would be “a simple case” took an unexpected turn in November when the theater responded that it had licensed Spider-Man, from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to Stan Lee, to sue Disney, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, the other Marvel characters it’s sought since emerging from bankruptcy in 2006.
After 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.
Continuing its long, and so far wholly unsuccessful, fight for ownership of many of Marvel’s best-known characters, the tenacious Stan Lee Media has sued a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, seeking to join a dispute about licensing Spider-Man for the stage.
In September, Disney Enterprises, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre, saying it violated copyrights and trademarks by using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever (Disney and Mackintosh jointly hold the copyright to the Mary Poppins stage production). The theater responded in November with the surprising claim that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim stated, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.
Say what you will about the shareholders of Stan Lee Media, but despite suffering one loss after another in their decade-long battle for the rights to Marvel’s best-known characters, they’re still unwilling to concede defeat.
In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, the failed dot-com now seeks a declaratory judgment that it, and not Disney or Marvel, owns Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor and other superheroes.
The move, which comes just three months after an annoyed federal judge dismissed their multibillion-dollar claim against Disney, springs from a lawsuit filed in September by the media giant against the American Music Theatre, which is accused of using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a stage revue without permission. In a surprise twist, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater responded last month that it has a license to use Spider-Man and numerous other Marvel heroes — through an exclusive agreement with Stan Lee Media. Somewhat conveniently, American Music Theatre filed a third-party counterclaim against Stan Lee Media, opening the door for Tuesday’s filing.