The apparently never-ending legal battle between the ill-fated Internet startup known as Stan Lee Media and Stan Lee over the ownership of rights to characters co-created by Lee including The Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and Thor will reach another decision point later this month. The suit is similar to one that was been dismissed in New York last year (see “Case Dismissed”), but a Federal Judge in California will likely make a decision soon as to whether a trial is necessary to determine the ownership of the characters. 

Stan Lee Media was a sleazy Internet start-up that could function as the poster child for the excesses of the turn-of –the-century era. Stan Lee did manage to extricate himself from the unsavory bunch of white collar grifters who formed Stan Lee Media, but many unsuspecting investors were duped in the wake of the collapse of the overheated Internet boom. Then the nearly worthless holdings of Stan Lee Media were acquired by bottomfeeders who are attempting to strike it rich through legal action against Stan Lee and Marvel.

The Stan Lee Media suit alleges that Stan Lee Media was assigned the rights to the characters in question just a few weeks before Lee reached an agreement with Marvel that assigned his character rights to Marvel and provided Lee with a million dollar a year salary from the House of Ideas. Lee claims that any assignment of rights to Stan Lee Media was terminated in 2001, and that the statute of limitations has run out on any challenges. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter a hearing is set for later this month, which could result in a decision, though any decision will likely be appealed as the Stan Lee vs. Stan Lee Media case takes on all the aspects of a 21st Century version of the nearly eternal "Jarndyce and Jarndyce "in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.