15 October 2012

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Stan Lee Media Sues Disney for 5.5 Billion Dollars.


In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Inc., a comic franchise, and all of its properties for 4.3 billion dollars. Marvel's primary asset was its rights to the roster of fictional characters created by Stan Lee. Rather than idly sitting on the income potential available through the Marvel acquisition, The Walt Disney company instead took advantage of their newly purchased rights to produce many profitable franchises. The movies "The Avengers," "Thor," "The Amazing Spider-Man," and "X-Men: First Class" made more than 3.5 billion dollars at the box office while other merchandising such as "Spider Man Turn Off the Dark" tickets are estimated to be worth around 2 billion dollars. "The Avengers" grossed over $1.5 billion in box office receipts in 2012. Now, many years later, Stan Lee Media Inc., a company that Stan Lee no longer has a position with, has filed a complaint against The Walt Disney Company alleging that they are in fact the true owners of the rights to the characters developed by Stan Lee.
 
The basis for Stan Lee Media Inc.'s contention, to paraphrase the allegations found in the complaint filed in the district court of Colorado, is that in November of 1998, Stan Lee entered into a contract with Marvel Enterprises, Inc. in which he supposedly assigned to Marvel the rights to his robust roster of characters. 

According to Stan Lee Media Inc. however, Lee no longer owned the rights to his characters because they had previously been assigned to SLEI. As a result, the Marvel agreement did not actually assign anything. It seems, therefore, that Stan Lee Media Inc. is saying that Stan Lee signed two contracts assigning the rights to his characters to different companies. The complaint does not, however, indicate why Stan Lee Media Inc. waited for so long to file suit against the Walt Disney Company.

The complaint goes on to say that The Walt Disney Company's use of the characters that it thought it had acquired from Marvel constitutes copyright infringement. Stan Lee Media Inc. is seeking damages in the amount of $5.5 billion.

In addition to the massive amount of money that Stan Lee Media Inc. is seeking in damages, a judgment against The Walt Disney Company would also definitively give Stan Lee Media Inc. the rights to Stan Lee's characters and their future profits. The future profits of Stan Lee's characters could amount to untold billions of dollars.

Stan Lee Media Inc. will have several legal hurdles to jump in order to make its case for copyright infringement. Among those hurdles is the fact that the company has already sued Stan Lee himself and lost. The case against Lee was dismissed in July based on the doctrine of res judicata.

The Walt Disney Company has commented on the suit saying, "This lawsuit is without merit. It arises out of the same core facts and legal claims that have been rejected by three federal district court judges."


Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

About Today's Guest Writer:
Derek is an active finance blogger. When he is not blogging, he teaches financial responsibility at his night class. The following article is for spider man turn off the dark tickets.