Walt Disney Co., which acquired Marvel Enterprises in 2009, faces a billion dollar litigation following a copyright infringement suit filed by Stan Lee Media Inc.
Stan Lee Media which said it owned the rights to comic book characters like The Avengers, Thor, X-Men, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four and Spiderman, filed a $5.5 billion rights claim against Disney in the U.S. District Court of Colorado Tuesday.
The Internet-based company founded by Stan Lee in 1998, said that Lee assigned the rights to all the Marvel characters in October 1998. However, Lee conceded the same rights to Marvel Enterprises a month later. Stan Lee Media said the rights displace the rights given to Marvel Enterprises because the contract was first assigned to the characters. The company attests that Walt Disney did not publicly list the agreement from Lee in the U.S. Copyright Office.
Disney purchased Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion and renamed the outfit to Marvel Entertainment to represent the film franchise of the comic book characters.
According to a report in Reuters, the claim alleges that, "Walt Disney Company has represented to the public that it, in fact, owns the copyright to these characters as well as hundreds of other characters created by Stan Lee... Those representations made to the public by the Walt Disney Company are false."
The litigation centers on Disney's successful Marvel releases particularly "The Avengers" which has earned $1.5 billion around the world. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 'The movie is the third highest grossing film of all time, behind Avatar and Titanic.'
A spokeswoman from Walt Disney described the claims as 'without merit' saying in an e-mail press statement, as quoted in the L.A. Times: "It (lawsuit) arises out of the same core facts and legal claims that have been rejected by three federal district court judges."
Stan Lee Media has been involved in other copyright infringement claims on Stan Lee's comic book creations, which includes claims of more than $2 billion from other media outfits, merchandises and a Spiderman Broadway musical. The company even filed a lawsuit against Stan Lee himself for $5 billion, a case which has not yet been decided.