Bloomberg BNA’s Patent Trademark & Copyright Law Daily™is the IP industry’s premier news service, offering objective, timely,and reliable daily news coverage and commentary from leading IP law...
By Anandashankar Mazumdar
Jan. 22 — A federal appeals court erred in ruling that the Batmobile was a literary character protectable under federal copyright law, according to a petition for Supreme Court review filed Jan. 21.
Mark Towle—the owner of a custom auto garage that builds replicas of Batman's vehicle from the 1960s TV show and more recent Batman movies—is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling won by DC Comics—the publisher that owns the Batman franchise—back in September. DC Comics v. Towle, 802 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2015).
The petition argues that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gives DC Comics exclusive ownership of automobiles, which are useful items and not the kinds of creative works of expression that are supposed to be protected by copyright law.
The petition also argues that, since the first appearance of the Batmobile in comic books, there has been no consistent set of characteristics that define the protected character— if an automobile with no personality can even be considered a literary character.
The petition presents the following questions to the Supreme Court:
1. Whether a court may judicially create a subject of copyright that was specifically and expressly excluded by Congress as such when Congress enacted The Copyright Act, thus circumventing the clear mandate of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office;
2. Whether an automobile that does not display any personality traits or any consistent and widely-identifiable physical attributes can be separately protected by copyright as a “character”; and
3. Whether a determination of substantial similarity of protected expression must be made in a copyright case, independent of proof of copying.
The petition was filed with the counsel of McPherson Rane LLP, Los Angeles.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)