A new battle over the rights to key Marvel characters broke out on Friday, as Marvel filed lawsuits against Larry Lieber and the estates of Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Don Rico, and Gen Colan to block their efforts to terminate copyrights in works created for Marvel, according to Variety. All five filed copyright termination notices on works for Marvel, which include rights to Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. Marvel’s suits seek to declare the works in question works for hire, to which rights cannot be terminated.
We’ve long reported on the attorneys in this case, who have led previous litigation teams behind previous battles over key comic rights. Marc Toberoff, who filed the new Marvel termination notices on behalf of the creators and their heirs, also led the litigation brought by heirs of Jack Kirby against Marvel, which began with similar copyright termination notices. In September of 2014, Marvel settled with the Kirby heirs as the Supreme Court was deciding whether to hear an appeal of a lower court case that Marvel had won (see “Marvel Settles with Kirby Heirs”).
A month later, another group of Toberoff clients, relatives of Superman artist and co-creator Joe Shuster, lost the final round in a lawsuit against Warner Bros. after the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling in favor of Warner Bros. (see “Supreme Court Denis Shuster ‘Superman’ Appeal”).
On the other side representing Marvel is Daniel Petrocelli, who defended Disney in one stage of its battle over Winnie the Pooh, and DC in the Superman case brought by Toberoff (see “Siegel, Shuster Attorney Reponds”).
The DC and Marvel cases above took about four years to be resolved. Start the clock.