Stan Lee Media Holds No Ownership of Stan Lee’s Characters According to 9th Circuit

On Wednesday, October 29, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of Stan Lee Media Inc. from an order dismissing its case against namesake and founder Stan Lee.

The underlying suit, filed by the corporation, was to recover revenue generated by the characters Iron Man, Spider Man, and others.  Stan Lee Media was originally formed by Stan Lee in 1998 when he left Marvel Comics.  Stan Lee has since returned to Marvel and the corporation filed for bankruptcy.  The corporation claims that Stan Lee turned over the rights to those characters and he is no longer entitled to the revenue or licensing.  The case was dismissed, and the corporation brought this appeal.

The 9th circuit quickly dismissed this appeal as well, holding that Stan Lee Media held no property ownership rights in the characters.  After it formed and prior to this litigation, the corporation never held itself out as an owner of the characters.  Even during an asset disclosure pursuant to a securities offering, the corporation never asserted its ownership rights.  The court held that “SLMI’s failure to publicize, protect, or exploit its right to profit from the characters establishes that these claims are simply implausible.”  The corporation still has lawsuits pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and a Pennsylvania federal court for alleged copyright infringements.

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