Marvel and DC sue small publisher over using the word superhero

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Feb 1, 2013, 3:51 PM EST

Recently an indie publishing house found out the hard way that Marvel and DC share a surprising trademark.

Cup O Java Studios' title A World Without Superheroes recently got slapped with a cease-and-desist from both Marvel and DC. Why? It turns out they jointly own the trademark to the term superhero. In fact, they apparently own the right to every permutation of the word, regardless of spelling.

Artist and founder of Bronx Heroes Con Ray Felix has entered into legal battle over the claimed infringing of trademark.  The first cease-and-desist came in September 2010. Felix was still able to trademark his title shortly thereafter, though, and he officially entered into battle with the big two in April 2012.  How does Felix feel about Marvel and DC's claim?

...jointly trademarking a word does not entitle any company or individual rights over the word as DC/ Marvel had proclaimed.  In their eyes they own every and any variation of the word regardless of spelling, variation in a statement or sentence in the English language or foreign.   Registration marks do not work that way.  It’s illegal and impractical.  Also, Registration gives you legal rights to word usage for a literal element.  Meaning a specific product which uses the actual word to sell a product(s).  Trademarks/ registered marks are never secure and can always be brought into opposition by any party which feels that it is infringing on their registration rights.

That being said, Felix has not had much luck.  He has described Marvel and DC's lawyers as grunting, losing their patience and being sharp with him. Furthermore, he claims that, due to a computer error, the judged charged him with abandonment and accused Felix of being "argumentative."

Most damning of all, though, is his assertion that even other independent creators and fans don't seem to care about this struggle.

I went public about the case at the last Mocca Con and was surprised that I was treated like a leper.  It was the first time I felt like an excommunicated Christian at a comic con.  Few voices were supportive. I got a few snickers and a few childish responses from so-called male adults.  It surprised me that people who spend their money at comic cons and read about heroes are so afraid and un-heroic in their own code to stand for something.  They’re conditioned puppets of corporate structures.

Felix went on to accuse the up-and-coming generation of creators of being "just hipsters who look like independent artists but have a corporate mindset of making themselves the next mainstream."  Harsh words, but does he have a point?  Should there be more struggling against comics' current corporate structure? 

We're certainly interested in whether Felix sees any direct result or at least moves the dialogue forward over the use of something as simple as superhero.

(via Crisp Comics)