Marvel Enterprises has sued the Walt Disney Co. to terminate its license to create animated programming featuring Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men and other characters for the ABC Family Channel. Suit is the second this year between Marvel and Disney.
In the suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Marvel seeks to terminate the license agreements on the ground that it never properly consented to a series of assignments of the rights to the characters under U.S. copyright law. As a result of imperfections in the license agreements, Marvel believes it has a right to terminate the agreements.
Marvel attorney Carole Handler said, “The purpose of this lawsuit is to reclaim rights to our valuable animated programming, which we believe was never properly licensed to Disney.”
Marvel also seeks statutory damages for copyright infringement and a resolution of its ongoing audit dispute with Disney. Handler declined to put a dollar value on the lawsuit but said damages could be “extremely substantial.”
A spokesman for Disney said the company had not seen the complaint and could not comment.
Under a 1992 deal, Marvel agreed to produce animated episodes for Fox Children’s Network. Marvel then entered into an agreement with Saban Entertainment to produce the animated programming. Under a 1996 deal, Fox obtained U.S. distribution rights and Saban acquired worldwide rights. Disney bought the channel in 2001 and acquired all distrib rights. In the suit Marvel claims that it never consented in writing to the assignments to Disney.
In July Marvel sued Disney, claiming it was owed at least $16 million on the cartoons. In that case, filed in L.A. Superior Court, Marvel claimed that Disney did not properly account for profits from “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” and failed to promote the television series.
(Ben Fritz contributed to this report.)