Oct 10th 2012 By: Graeme McMillan
We've previously seen the estate of Jack Kirby
try to wrestle back ownership of the characters the King of Comics had created for Marvel, and now it's apparently time for the corporation bearing the name of Kirby's co-conspirator to try the same thing. Yes, Stan Lee Media, Inc. has launched legal action against Marvel owner Disney
, claiming that it is actually the true owner of all of Lee's characters at the publisher.
The company, founded in 1998 and having no real connection with Lee himself (The two have actually been involved in various legal battles against each other to underscore that fact), is suing Disney for the profits it has made from the various Marvel Entertainment movies and merchandise since it purchased the company in 2009
, claiming that the copyright to Lee's various co-creations actually belongs to Stan Lee Media, Inc. and not Marvel, and therefore Disney.
"Defendant The Walt Disney Company has represented to the public that it, in fact, owns the copyright to these characters as well as to hundreds of other characters created by Stan Lee. Those representations made to the public by The Walt Disney Company are false," explains the lawsuit. SLMI is claiming that Lee signed over the rights to characters he created in October of 1998 in exchange for stock in Stan Lee Media, Inc., meaning that the November, 1998 agreement he signed with Marvel to assign the publisher control of the characters was worthless. "Lee no longer owned those rights since they had been assigned to SMI previously," the lawsuit explains.
"Accordingly, the Marvel agreement actually assigned nothing." Considering the near-mythical legal might of Disney, it's unlikely to imagine that this lawsuit will end up as anything more than a footnote in Marvel history, but if nothing else, we can look forward to a trial if only to find out why either Stan Lee Media, Inc. or Lee himself apparently believed that Lee had any ownership over the various Marvel Comics characters to assign in the first place.