US company loses bid for rights to Marvel superheroes
DENVER (AP) — Stan Lee Media lost its latest fight against Disney over the rights to Marvel’s iconic comic book characters Tuesday when a federal appeals court ruled it could not claim ownership to certain superheroes such as Spider-Man and Iron Man.
In its decision, a panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Stan Lee Media, which sought profits from the $5.5 billion the company says Disney made from movies and merchandise featuring Marvel’s superheros.
Disney bought Marvel in 2009.
Stan Lee Media no longer is affiliated with comic book writer Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider Man. But the company argued it had the rights to at least some of the characters under a 1998 agreement. Lee later sent Stan Lee Media a letter terminating the agreement because the company had breached the deal. He gave the same rights to Marvel, spawning the series of courtroom battles. Stan Lee Media has sued Marvel and others over the characters’ copyrights in at least six cases, all of which have been dismissed, according to court documents.
In oral arguments in October, Disney argued there was no conceivable way the company could state a viable copyright claim.
The appeals court panel agreed, saying the copyright issue was already settled by another federal appeals court, which ruled Stan Lee Media failed to plausibly make its case.
“In other words, Stan Lee Media could not even allege any right to ownership of the disputed properties,” the 10th Circuit judges wrote in their decision.
An attorney representing Stan Lee Media did not immediately return a call for comment.