After losing one lawsuit after another in its eight-year battle for many of Marvel’s most famous characters, Stan Lee Media is looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for a reversal of fortune.
In a filing made public Friday, and first reported by Law360, the failed dot-com asked the justices to revive its lawsuit against co-founder and namesake Stan Lee, arguing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals erred in its October dismissal.
The court called Stan Lee Media’s claims to ownership of Spider-Man and other characters “simply implausible,” pointing out that between 1998 — when Lee purportedly transferred rights to the dot-com — and 2007 — when it began litigation — the company never publicized or attempted to license these lucrative properties. However, in its petition filed Feb. 12, Stan Lee Media insists the Ninth Circuit wrongly limited the pleading standings established in 2007 by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, and focused on facts outside the actual complaint.
A response from Lee’s attorney to Stan Lee Media’s brief is due March 26.
Stan Lee Media has long insisted that between August 1998, when Marvel terminated Lee’s $1 million-a-year lifetime contract, and November 1998, when he entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas, the legendary creator signed over his likeness and the rights to all of the characters he co-created — Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, among them — to Stan Lee Entertainment, which later merged with Stan Lee Media. That company in turned filed for bankruptcy in February 2001; it emerged from protection in November 2006, and within months, the first of numerous lawsuits (against Marvel, Lee, Disney and others) was filed.
None of Stan Lee Media’s actions, pursued in multiple jurisdictions, has been successful. In December, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a billion-dollar copyright-infringement lawsuit against Disney, and determined the issue of ownership has already been settled by other courts, and may not be relitigated.
The Supreme Court accepts only 100 to 150 out of the more than 7,000 cases it’s asked to review each year.