The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear Stan Lee Media’s case against Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, bringing to a definitive end at least one part of a legal battle that’s been waged for the better part of a decade.
The action lets stand the 2012 dismissal of a lawsuit seeking million in profits and ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Lee, co-founder of the failed dot-com. Stan Lee Media had argued in its petition to the justices that the Ninth Circuit erred in October when it upheld the lower court’s decision.
Stan Lee Media has long insisted — in multiple jurisdictions — 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.
The Ninth Circuit 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.
Stan Lee Media, whose efforts are backed by a group of investors that includes the $21 billion hedge fund Elliott Management, has yet to win a case in eight years.
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