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Batmobile Protected by Copyright, Appeals Court Says

An appeals court sided with DC Comics in its claim to a copyright interest in the Batmobile, ruling that the automobile was sufficiently distinctive to be deemed a character in and of itself.

The three-judge panel determined that a business that produces replicas of the Batmobile — Mark Towle’s Gotham Garage — infringed on DC Comics copyrights. The replicas are based on versions from the 1960s TV series and the 1989 movie, and sold to avid collectors for about $90,000.

“In addition to its status as Batman’s loyal bat-themed sidekick complete with the character traits and physical characteristics described above, the Batmobile also has its unique and highly recognizable,” Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta wrote in the opinion. “It is not merely a stock character.”

They also rejected Towle’s claim that DC Comics did not own a copyright interest in the Batmobile, noting that it was derived from the publisher’s underlying Batman works.

Clearly, Ikuta had a good time writing the opinion.

“As Batman so sagely told Robin, ‘In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential,'” they wrote, quoting from a March, 23, 1966 “Batman” episode titled “The Penguin Goes Straight.”

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