Notoriously litigious Stan Lee Media Inc couldn’t have thought that Disney would respond to its latest Marvel character rights grab in a placid manner, so the company shouldn’t be surprised by the legal hit to the jugular that the House Mickey Built just gave it in federal court over Spider-Man. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. “Making SLMI’s patently frivolous ownership claims [American Music Theater's] defense to a straightforward copyright infringement suit gets neither of them anywhere,” says the March 21 reply (read it here) to the SMLI’s opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss the company from its copyright case against AMT. “This Court should now end this SLMI-financed frolic and detour once and for all,” adds the filing in federal court in Pennsylvania, noting that the intervention lacks any merit to succeed. Last week’s reply comes just under two weeks after SLMI aggressively responded to Disney’s motion to throw them off the media giant’s copyright case against AMT over its allegedly unauthorized use of Spider-Man in its regional show Broadway: Now & Forever. A month after being hauled into court by Disney last September, AMT claimed that it got the rights to Spidey from rights holder SLMI. In December, SLMI, who had lost a claim in federal court in Colorado on several Marvel characters and the multibillion-dollar profits from them just a couple of months …
Despite Disney’s best legal efforts, perpetually litigious Stan Lee Media Inc is not going quietly into the Pennsylvania night with its claims to Spider-Man. Today SLMI fired back at the media giant’s attempts to shut it down once and for all last month with assertions of time-barred claims and the fact that it is a dissolved corporation. “It is Disney’s burden to prove Disney’s ownership of the copyrights to Spider‐Man. Prior litigation cannot bar [American Music Theater], and concomitantly SLMI, from defending itself by showing Disney’s assertion is wrong,” says the dense and exhibit heavy filing in federal court in the Keystone State (read it here). “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” adds the opposition to Disney Enterprises’ motion to dismiss SLMI from its copyright case against American Music Theater. AMT also filed paperwork (read it here) in opposition to Disney’s motion to toss its counterclaims and SLMI from the case. This latest kick at the can by the repeatedly defeated SLMI over its claims over various Marvel characters created by Stan Lee — who no longer has anything to do with the company that bears his name — seems certainly to clog up the courts for at least a little while longer.
The mantra over at Stan Lee Media Inc must be “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Certainly that is its legal strategy. Almost three months after a federal judge in Colorado granted Disney’s request for dismissal of SLMI’s multibillion-dollar Marvel superhero copyright suit, the company is back in Pennsylvania court this week claiming it owns the rights to Spider-Man. “In response to Disney’s Spider-Man claims and/or in response to [American Music Theater's] counterclaims and third-party claims, SLMI respectfully seeks a declaratory judgment … that Disney cannot bar SLMI from using or licensing the Spider-Man copyrights and trademarks by virtue of the fact that SLMI (not Disney) is the owner of various copyrights and trademarks regarding Spider-Man and has properly licensed the copyrights and trademarks to AMT,” says the third-party defendant paperwork (read it here) filed Tuesday.
EXCLUSIVE: Looks like Conan The Barbarian finally has one less foe to face. Two years and two months after the litigious Stan Lee Media sued Conan rights owners Paradox Entertainment for the rights back to the character, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today pretty much slew their case. And by the way, just so everyone is clear, Stan Lee has nothing to do with the company that bears his name and hasn’t for well over a decade. Having said that, after hearing arguments on October 9, Judges Kim McLane Wardlaw, Richard Tallman and Harry Pregerson all quickly and strongly agreed (read it here) with District Court Judge Stephen Wilson’s February 2012 dismissal of SLMI’s suit against Paradox, its CEO Fredrik Malmberg, Lee’s longtime now-deceased lawyer, Arthur Leiberman’s estate and others. “The ruling confirms what we have said all along: This was a meritless and frivolous lawsuit to cash in on others’ hard work. I’m glad that two courts agree,” Malmberg told me today.
Turns out the Walt Disney Company really does own the rights to the Marvel characters created by Stan Lee, at least according to a federal judge today. U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez Thursday granted with prejudice Disney’s motion to dismiss Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit superhero copyright suit. In his 11-page order (read it here) Martinez did little to hide his annoyance with the litigious SLMI. “Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts,” he wrote of the company’s many legal moves.
This latest attempt started in mid-October 2012 when SLMI filed a copyright infringement complaint seeking the profits from the $5.5 billion it said that Disney made from Marvel superhero movies and merchandise based on characters created by Lee. In its suit, SLMI claimed that Lee, who no longer has anything to do with the company with his name, signed over the rights to comic book characters like Iron Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man and many more that he created or would create to its corporate predecessor in October 1998 for shares in the company. In November 1998, Lee signed an agreement with Marvel handing over the rights to the same characters. …
The Walt Disney Company has called Stan Lee Media’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit “flawed beyond cure.” In a motion to dismiss (read it here) filed last week, the company mocks SLMI’s legal claims that it actually owns rights to all the Marvel characters created by Stan Lee. “There is no conceivable basis on which Plaintiff can state a viable copyright claim against TWDC in this Court, or for that matter, any other,” the Disney motion says. “In sum, against the backdrop of Plaintiff’s six prior unsuccessful litigations on this topic, express judicial displeasure with Plaintiff clogging the courts with a repeated invocation of rights it does not possess, and the fact that TWDC conducts no business activities other than those of a holding company, this lawsuit is completely frivolous and should be dismissed,” Disney added. SLMI wants the profits from the $5.5 billion it says that Disney made from Marvel superhero movies and merchandise based on characters created by Lee, who no longer has anything to do with the company. The November 30 motion to dismiss, like the initial suit by SLMI in October, was filed in Colorado.
Stan Lee Media, Inc. wants the profits from the $5.5 billion it says the Walt Disney Company has made from superhero movies and merchandise based on characters created by Stan Lee. Those characters include Iron Man, Spider-Man, most of The Avengers, The X-Men and more. “Defendant The Walt Disney Company has represented to the public that it, in fact, owns the copyright to these characters as well as to hundreds of other characters created by Stan Lee. Those representations made to the public by The Walt Disney Company are false,” says the company’s copyright infringement complaint filed today (read it here) in a Colorado court. SLMI, which Lee himself has nothing to do with nowadays, is seeking “the maximum statutory damages allowable” plus full control over Iron Man, Spider-Man and other characters. A failed party to past litigation with Lee himself and Marvel, SLMI also is seeking a jury trial in this case.