Marvel Wins Four-Year Copyright Dispute

by Khadija Dukes

After four years in court, everybody’s favorite comic-based entertainment company prevailed in a copyright dispute over an official movie poster, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The suit arose from an Iron Man 3 poster in which Robert Downey Jr. can be seen crouching down in his Iron Man suit. The case was filed by Horizon Comics Productions, whose comic book series, Radix, featured a character named Caliban. In a drawing for the series, Caliban can be seen crouching down in the same stance as Downey Jr. in the Iron Man 3 poster.

Horizon Comics Productions is run by Ben and Ray Lai, two brothers who claimed to have worked on multiple projects for Marvel just a year after creating Radix. The case, which was filed in Massachusetts, moved to New York where the company presented evidence that at least six or more Marvel employees knew of Radix. In Judge J. Paul Oetken’s reasoning for denying Marvel’s Motion to Dismiss, he acknowledged similarities between the two works, namely the general “concept.”

However, Judge Oetken refuted Horizon’s claim that Marvel employees had access to Radix and the Caliban drawing during the creation of the Iron Man 3poster. The judge noted that despite the comic’s popularity, the image may not have been widely published such that there would be widespread viewership or access. Additionally, the judge pointed out key differences regarding the lighting and coloring of the two images.

Overall, the judge concluded that Marvel effectively distinguished its image as an original creative work, despite what the average person could see as substantial similarities between the two.

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