Why a German luggage company is suing Marvel over Avengers movie

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

For Marvel, The Avengers was more than just the biggest movie they've ever done. It was the end of an ambitious four-year slate of movies they've dubbed "Phase One" of their cinematic universe. Now, as Marvel prepares to release a limited-edition collection of all the Phase One films on Blu-ray, a German luggage company is taking them to court. But why?

On Sept. 25, a "Phase One: Avengers Assembled" Blu-ray collector's set will be released featuring Blu-ray copies of The Avengers, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk, plus bonus materials. But here's where the German luggage company comes in: The set (pictured above) is designed to look like the briefcase Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury used to contain the Tesseract in The Avengers.

The original is a Topas attaché case made by Rimowa GmbH, a company that claims the luggage is "impervious to the elements" and "virtually indestructible." Rimowa provided a genuine Topas case to Marvel for use in the film, but in a filing in a California federal court the company claimed Marvel and Disney home entertainment distributor Buena Vista violated trademarks by replicating the case for the Blu-ray set.

The company alleges not only that Marvel made and mass-produced a plastic replica of the case without permission, but that by making the replicas they introduced a low-quality copy of their high-quality luggage that results in unfair competition.

"Images of the replica briefcase on Marvel's advertising materials, and fan video from Marvel's product display at this year's Comic-Con convention, show the plastic 'replica case' to be a close copy of Rimowa's Topas attaché case in every respect but quality -- from the proportions and coloring, to the style of the handle and latches, and, of course, in the use of the trademarked parallel ridges around the body of the case."

In addition to the unfair competition claims, Rimowa is also claiming trademark infringement and trademark dilution. The company's demanding a trial by jury, any profits Marvel makes from the alleged unlawful behavior and three times "actual damages" once a judge and jury decide what those damages are. Marvel has not yet responded to the claims.

What do you think? Copyright infringement or simple cry for attention?

(THR via The Mary Sue)

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