Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

February 17, 2012

WSJ Blog Says That ERB Inc. Is Suing Dynamite For Trademark Infringement And Unfair Competition

imageThe famously aggressive family holding company Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. has apparently sued the comics-maker Dynamite for the Tarzan- and John Carter-related efforts in its pulp-driven famous character line rollout. Those characters are trademarked even though the stories in the series have slipped into the public domain. It looks from the filing itself they're also staking out a claim in case the comics are distributed in any country where the family-owned business still has a copyright claim, which may or may not include Celebration, Florida. The Dynamite titles had been named "Lord Of The Jungle" and "Warlord Of Mars" one would guess in great part to avoid this sort of thing. You can see a listing of ERB's trademark holdings related to Tarzan here.

The suit notes recent licensed comic book efforts involving ERB Inc. and Dark Horse (John Carter-related reprints) and Marvel (John Carter-related new comics).

I have no idea what the law actually says or which way a judge might make a decision if it comes to that, but I'm guessing reaction may be split in The Court Of People Arguing About Things On The Internet. On the one hand, since there are companies that have secured agreements it doesn't sound like there was any significant barrier for a company to do so, plus not having to secure an agreement might seem an unfair advantage. On the other hand, given the age of the Tarzan and John Carter properties and the generally accepted notion in a lot of geek circles that someone can work with a trademarked property if they don't exploit the trademark, one might form the opinion that ERB, Inc. should no longer have this kind of side-door control of material and that this stuff should have returned to the public in whole and complete fashion some years ago. notes that the imminent movie version of A Princess Of Mars has many entertainment industry observers going "Holy freaking crap, that movie could bomb." I have no idea if that means anything, either, other than that the suit is likely to get a PR bump before the movie opens and might not have after.
posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink

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