As we reported earlier, Stan Lee Media, Inc. lost a legal battle where they claimed ownership over several Marvel characters. The suit was dismissed multiple times and, since it was a frivolous suit, Disney was awarded attorneys’ fees of approximately $240,000. Stan Lee Media is appealing this award to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Apparently they still believe that superheroes will come to their rescue.
Story Originally Published on August 1st, 2014
You win some and you lose some and sometimes a win is still a bit of a loss. After achieving a win in a copyright battle with Stan Lee Media, Inc., Marvel’s request for fees were met with an inquisitive eye by the Court who cut in half Marvel’s approximately $500,000 attorneys’ fees request.
This case and the still ongoing related legal battles are rather compelling and have been covered quite liberally by this blog. Long story short, in October 2012, Stan Lee Media, the company formerly owned by Stan Lee and no longer associated with Mr. Lee, sued Disney claiming that Disney’s 2009 acquisition of Marvel and its intellectual property was meaningless because Lee transferred his copyrights in the comic book creations to another company a month before Lee transferred them to Marvel. Therefore, since Marvel never owned the comic book characters, Disney had no right to exploit them in movies, comic books and in merchandise and Stan Lee Media demanded billions of dollars of money. Stan Lee Media has made this argument several times and lost each time including this case which went to the Federal Court of Appeals in Colorado.
As the victor in the copyright lawsuit, Disney is permitted to request recovery of its “reasonable” costs including attorneys’ fees; the Judge took issue with Disney’s interpretation of the term “reasonable” in its $461,881.80 request. The Court found that Stan Lee Media’s reliance on this agreement was “objectively unreasonable” and determined that it was appropriate to award costs…but not that much. The Court stated that “it shocks the Court’s conscience that [Disney]would bill almost half a million dollars, or 900 hours, on a case with minimal discovery…” The Court stated the amount was “grossly excessive” and called the attorneys’ billing records “vague” and slashed the request.
Despite all the nasty adjectives the Court used to describe the request, Disney must still be pleased with the award of $239,940.90 in fees against Stan Lee Media. Now, Marvel is going to have to call in some superheroes to try to collect that money.