Jan.23, 2011. Powered by Blogger.

Intellectual Property Lawsuits

Intellectual Property is the most vulnerable, yet essential producing aspect of a company. It's like a company's baby, and they'd do everything in their power to protect it, and preserve it's rights. Whatever helps make the company unique and works to produce high selling volumes, then it's in the company's best interest to protect the means of their revenue. I have checked on a few intellectual property lawsuit cases regarding superheroes, and the video game industry.

In the first article, the heirs, Jerry Siegel and Shuster Estate, from Warner Bros. and DC Comics, fought for the copyrights of Superman’s identity features. Superman's copyright have been back-dated to 1999, and are now owed profits from WB and DC since then, and in addition to being granted of the copyright ownership. However, Warner Bros and DC comics strikes back with a counter lawsuit against the attorney of Superman's heirs, Marc Toberoff. They accused Toberoff for intervening with "DC's right to exploit Superman by destroying the relationship between the creator's heirs in an effort to gain control over the copyrights" (McNary & Johnson, 2010). It was said Toberoff had a personal agenda that extended far beyond legal representation, and that gains a 47.5% stake in the heirs claimed rights. The Siegel heirs get 27.5% and the Shuster heirs receive 25%. Toberoff says the agreement was securing the heirs control of the financial stake in copyright interests and from preventing them from entering any agreements with DC Comics to exploit the Man Of Steel. He asserts that the suit against him serves to defame him and pressure his clients to sell back Superman's copyright, while DC Comics accuses him of interfering with the relationship and developing agreements, even if it's in their economic interest to do exploit Superman through DC's outlet. The split ended up with the heirs are in control of the costume and alter-ego, Clark Kent, while DC Comics are in possession of Kryptonite and Lex Luthor.

The second intellectual property issue I came across was about Spawn, another comic book character. Spawn was co-created by Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman. However, McFarlane's company went bankrupt and he was unable to pay Gaiman his portion. Later McFarlane's was able to sustain revenue and released characters, Domina and Tiffany, who were spun-off from the duo's original character. Gaiman sued because of the character spin off from the original characters, in which the judge ruled in accordance. In McFarlane's defense, he said the characters were derived from Spawn's universe, not based on original characters, but that wasn't justifiable. The federal jury found Gaiman to have copyright interests to the characters in 2002. Gaiman states, "...I hope that Todd is able to do an accounting for all the comics I wrote for which he paid no royalties, and the rest of it...that he'll settle up...that his comic company can come out of bankruptcy and I can forget this forever" (Meirose, 2010).

The third story I found regarding an IP battle was between Anascape Lt., a small Texas based company and Nintendo. Anascape filed a $21 Million copyright infringement lawsuit against Nintendo and their designs for certain Wii, WaveBird, and GameCube controllers. The jury found 12 patents filed by Anascape that were violated by Nintendo, which included Remote Controller with Analog Button, 3D Controller with Vibration, and Game Controller with Analog Pressure Sensor. However, all alleged infringements were not validated as a violation, such as the rectangular Wii remote and Nunchuk corded attachment. The lawsuit infringement ruled against Nintendo's GameCube, the Wii's Classic and WaveBird Controllers. Nintendo has appealed the decision and expect the subjected amount to pay Anascape to be greatly reduced. They are challenging the validity of Anascape's patent because Nintendo claims it did not use the their technology.

* (2008, May 22). Intellectual property law: nintendo loses $21 million lawsuit. america’s premier online legal news source. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/features/intellectual-property/nintendo-anascape-controller-patent.html.
* Kaiser, B. (2010, October) Superhero intellectual property disputes. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.legalzoom.com/intellectual-property-rights/intellectual-property-basics/superhero-intellectual-property-disputes.
* McNary, D. & Johnson, T. (2010, May 16) Warner bros. sues lawyer for superman heirs: dc comics fights back against marc toberoff. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118019453.
* Meirose, K. (2010, July 31). Judge rules dark ages spawn, domina and tiffany are derivative. Retrieved May 7, 2011, from http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/07/judge-rules-dark-ages-spawn-domina-and-tiffany-are-derivative-characters/.

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