Stan Lee Media can’t claim ownership to any of the iconic comicbook characters Stan Lee created for Marvel, a federal court judge ruled Thursday, giving full control of superheroes like Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men to the Walt Disney Co.
Stan Lee Media has sued Marvel Entertainment multiple times without success in an effort to lay claim to the characters. In October 2012, Stan Lee Media sued Disney, which purchased Marvel in 2009, in a Colorado federal court, seeking profits from $5.5 billion it claimed Disney has made from Marvel movies and merchandise featuring the superheroes.
In late November, Disney asked the court to dismiss the suit declaring that Stan Lee Media’s effort to claim the rights to Marvel characters Lee had a hand in creating is “flawed beyond cure.”
Disney has said that Stan Lee Media failed to specify to which works it claims to own the copyright, instead referring “vaguely” to “comicbook characters…that (Lee) had previously created or would create.” It also added that Disney “is a holding company and as such does not conduct business in Colorado or anywhere else,” the company said in a motion to dismiss the suit. “There is no conceivable basis on which the plaintiff can state a viable copyright claim against (the Walt Disney Co.) in this court or, for that matter, any other.”
Judge Martinez agreed with Disney on Thursday writing “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,” in an 11-page order.
Lee is no longer associated with Stan Lee Media, but in its suit, the company claims the comicbook vet assigned the copyrights to the characters to a predecessor company in 1998.
Yet Lee has long claimed that the copyrights he assigned to Marvel were not the same as those he assigned to Stan Lee Media, and U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty ruled in 2010 that a “lifetime” agreement that Lee signed in 1998 was in violation of California labor laws.
Stan Lee Media appears to have run out of appeals in the case.
“Taking its cue from the Southern District of New York and the Central District of California, this Court holds that Plaintiff is precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement, which issue was decided against it,” Judge Martinez wrote.