DENVER — Spider-Man, X-Men and The Hulk will loom large in a federal appeals court Tuesday as a Colorado company battles with Disney for the rights to Marvel’s iconic comic book characters in a longtime dispute.
A panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in an ongoing case involving Colorado-based Stan Lee Media and The Walt Disney Co.
A federal judge last year dismissed a lawsuit in which Stan Lee Media claimed the copyright to the characters and sought profits Disney made from movies and merchandise featuring them. Disney bought Marvel in 2009.
Stan Lee Media, which is no longer affiliated with comic book writer Stan Lee, appealed the judge’s order. Disney has argued that other courts have already ruled against Stan Lee Media on the same matter.
The appeal is the latest turn in a court battle between the companies that has spanned more than a decade.
Stan Lee Media has sued Marvel and others over the characters’ copyrights in at least six cases, all of which have been dismissed, according to court documents. In 2012, it sued Disney in federal court in Denver for the $5.5 billion it said Disney earned from movies and merchandise involving Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four and other characters.
Stan Lee Media says Lee signed over the rights to the characters he created to its corporate predecessor in 1998. But Lee sent Stan Lee Media a letter terminating the agreement because the company had breached the deal. He gave the same copyrights to Marvel, spawning the courtroom battles, court documents say.
In asking the judge to dismiss the case, Disney said there was no conceivable way Stan Lee Media could state a viable copyright claim.