Judge Dismisses Stan Lee Media’s Claim to Marvel Characters Lee Co-Created

ASM #131
Credit: Marvel Comics

In a decision that backed up previous rulings by other courts around the country, a federal judge granted the Walt Disney Company’s request for a dismissal of the multi-million dollar lawsuit that Stan Lee Media filed back in October claiming ownership of their former owner Stan Lee’s characters co-created while working at Marvel. Announced Thursday, this dismissal with prejudice is the latest in a string of defeats for Stan Lee Media in their attempts to claim ownership of Lee’s creations at the publisher, ranging from Spider-Man to the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk and various other characters.
In U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez’ 11 page order, he agreed with Disney’s assertion that Stan Lee Media had no legal ownership over their namesake and former owner’s work for the publisher. Stan Lee Media’s argument was that Lee had sold the ownership rights he had to the Marvel characters he created to Stan Lee Media in October 1998 in exchange for shares in the one-time publicly trade company. Just one month after that trade, Lee reached an agreement with Marvel declaring he had no claims of ownership on those characters, in effect making Lee’s trade with Stan Lee Media non-existent.
Although it bears the name of Stan Lee, confusion has been rampant over the assumption that Lee is still a part of the company that holds his name. Stan Lee Media was founded back in 1998 by Lee and then-partner Peter F. Paul, but Lee left the company in 2000 when its original iteration closed its doors.  Paul took control of the company with a new round of investors, and set about trying to enforce those murky rights Lee transferred to them in 1998, with the company suiing its co-founder and namesake Lee, as well as Marvel and the company’s eventual owner, the Walt Disney Company on six different occasions in various courts in Colorado, California and Delaware. .
As part of the judge’s decision here this week, Martinez dismissed the lawsuit “with prejudice,” which bars Stan Lee Media from bringing any more actions on this same claim.
“Taking its cue from the Southern District of New York and the Central District of California,” the judges’ order states, “this Court holds that Plaintiff is precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement, which issue was decided against it.”

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