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

March 14, 2005

Trademark Infringement Portions of Marvel Vs. City of Heroes Case Dismissed

Some portions of the Marvel lawsuit against the City of Heroes case, including a signficant number of complaints relating to trademarke infringement, were dismissed in the middle of last week. Newsarama smartly breaks down what's been scratched and what's left. Most of the official documents in this case between the superhero licensing giant and the companies behind the multi-player on-line role-playing game are being archived here.

This is a tremendously important gaming industry story and only sort-of one for comics. In fact, one could argue the important things about this case in terms of comics have already occurred: continuing evidence that Marvel will be aggressive about protecting its licenses, and Marvel conceiving of its characters in term of a sum of attributes rather than, say, a specific costume, a formulation which could appear in some future comics-related lawsuit.

I continue to reject the notion that this litigation is akin to Marvel suing a crayon company for kids drawing Stingray. Whether or not Marvel has a legal leg to stand on here, it's pretty clear that they're suing as a licensing company that feels the value of a specific type of license has been diminished because of what they see as a nudge-wink strategy that allows if not promotes close approximations of copyrighted characters as an inducement to play. My suspicion is that this will be too difficult for Marvel's lawyers to prove, but at least they'll be losing on a slightly less reactionary point than is being claimed for them.
posted 10:26 am PST | Permalink

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