Marvel and DC, Comic Giants Overzealous Protection of Trademark “Superhero”

 It is a common trend of large companies appearing to bully small business owners over the use of trade marks. Marvel and DC have recently been applying this to their joint registered trade mark ‘superhero’.

DC and Marvel are the biggest brands in comic books and superhero franchises. Normally they are rivals but in this case they appear to be working together to attack any users of the term “superhero”. Even in culture references not specific to comic books.

The author of Business Zero To Superhero, a book about setting up a small firm, Graham Jules has been contested by Marvel over his attempted registry of the title for an online website.

Jules like many small time business owners is faced with an opposition from a company with infinitely more resources than him. He does not believe they have a claim to the word, saying “As far as I can see, the word superhero was first used in about 1917, before Marvel or DC even existed.’

And Jules is not the only one who has come under scrutiny from the comic giants. Ray Felix, founder of the Bronx Heroes Con, entrepreneur, and comic artist is also under fire from Marvel and DC over the mark “superhero”

Marvel and DC jointly renewed their registration of Super Hero in 2006. Felix argues Marvel and DC have been misusing their rights. “trade marking a word does not entitle any company or individual rights over the word as DC/ Marvel had proclaimed.  In their eyes they own every and any variation of the word regardless of spelling, variation in a statement or sentence in the English language or foreign”

Felix is correct here,  registered trade marks are used to prevent consumer confusion and they only give you legal rights to the word for a literal element. That means a specific product which uses the actual word to sell a product(s). Trade marks can be brought into opposition by any party which feels that their rights are being infringed.

Bio-Synergy, founded by Daniel Herman is another to run into trouble. His attempt to renew the phrase ‘Fuel the super-hero inside’  which had received no problem in 2005 was rejected two weeks ago by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.

Marvel and DC contested the mark via ‘abandonment’. In this case the examiner asked to see marketing plans and Herman was unable to provide them.

Marvel and DCs lawyer Jonathan Reichman (New York lawyers Kenyon & Kenyon) has denied they are picking on small firms. They insist the law requires them to defend their trade mark whenever anyone else tries to register it.

‘We recognize that people use the word superhero in the English language. Its only when people try to register it as a brand that we take action. We are not just beating up on the small guys,’

This is very similar to the case of Candy Crush King Trademark “Candy” – Is It Trademark Bullying?

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