Stan Lee is now part of the historical record in a way even he never imagined.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a June 22 ruling in favor of Marvel Entertainment against toy inventor Stephen Kimble, who was seeking additional royalty payments. In the majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan cited Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man.
“What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: ‘Spider-Man,’ p. 13 (1962) (“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility”). Finding many reasons for staying the stare decisis course and no ‘special justification’ for departing from it, we decline Kimble’s invitation to overrule Brulotte. For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.”
Stare decisis roughly translates to “let what has been decided, stand.” Legally speaking, invoking stare decisis lets the precedent from a previous ruling stand. Kagan’s opinion states that defying Stare decisis is a great power, and she is aware on the great responsibility attached to it. A previous decision in Brulotte v. Thys Co. stands, stating that a patent holder cannot claim royalties after a patent has expired. Per Reuters, Kimble obtained a patent for the technology in a Spider-Man Web Blaster toy in 1991, and Marvel has paid more than $6 million in royalties.
For his part, Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee loves him some Latin. Old Stan’s Sopabox columns included such Latin phrases as Nil nisi optimus (“Nothing but the best!”) and Audentes fortuna juvat (“Fortune favors the bold!”). Stan knows his stare decisis, and is happy at the Court’s notice.
“It feels pretty good to be part of the historical record in that way,” Lee said. “I see she quoted it accurately. I assume a Supreme Court justice would.”
Stan is also happy to help the august body in future deliberations. “I’m a little concerned they didn’t ask me to testify in person, but I’ll let it pass,” he said. “But next time. They have my number, right?”