Disney Seeks Dismissal of Stan Lee Media Lawsuit4 Dec, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel
The Walt Disney Co. is asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed against it by Stan Lee Media Inc., which claims copyright ownership of all Marvel superhero characters and seeks billions in compensation.
Stan Lee Media is a defunct business venture created by Lee prior to the dotcom boom in the late ’90s. SLM Inc. in October filed suit against Disney claiming Lee had no legal right in 1998 to sell copyrights of the superheroes and other characters to Marvel Inc. Disney bought Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion.
Lee no longer is contractually associated with SLM Inc.
Disney, in its Nov. 30 motion to dismiss filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, said Lee worked for Marvel for more than 40 years creating characters such as Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, Spider-Man and The X-Men, among others. The filing said Lee retained copyright control of the characters after terminating his agreement with SLM Inc. in 2001.
Disney characterized the SLM Inc. suit as “flawed beyond cure.” It said subsequent copyright filings throughout the years by SLM Inc. against Marvel have been dismissed by their respective courts.
“The [current] suit is just the plaintiff’s latest attempt to assert the same rights allegedly stemming from the 1998 agreement,” Disney said in its motion, adding that it does not produce, market or distribute movies or other productions featuring Marvel characters. Instead, it is merely the parent company of Marvel Inc.
Disney contends SLM Inc.’s copyright claims to Marvel characters have expired, and trying the case again in court represents “re-litigation” of an issue already ruled upon in federal court.
Disney has generated more than $5.5 billion in global box office revenue since acquiring Marvel. The Avengers is the No. 1 movie at the box office this year.