National Superhero Day was created by employees at Marvel Comics in 1995 to celebrate the wonder of comic book heroes, but it has turned into so much more, as I have learned over the past ten minutes. For example, it isn’t uncommon on Superhero Day to see people dress up like caped crusaders and heading to local children’s hospitals to put smiles on kid’s faces! But Superhero Day isn’t all rainbows, puppies and lollipops: it has a dark side.
And now, dear readers, it is time to learn some ugly truths! SUPERHERO is a registered trademark owned jointly by DC Comics and Marvel Comics. SUPER HERO is a word that most people think is generic, like KLEENEX or XEROX, but it is not. DC Comics and Marvel, much to the chagrin of many creators, are the owners of both the SUPER HERO and SUPER HEROES marks. Back in 1966, Marvel and DC Comics jointly filed and were granted a trademark registration for the mark SUPER HERO. The companies have registered several variations of the term over the years. These marks seem to be becoming more and more generic but that isn’t stopping the comic book companies from enforcing their rights. The two comic book giants routinely oppose most trademark applications that contain the mark. The more a trademark becomes generic, the less protection it is entitled to; this is why Marvel and DC Comics are so vigilant in fighting any unauthorized use of the mark.
So, technically, when you use the term “superhero” on a t-shirt or in association with some event, you need to have permission from Marvel and DC Comics. Let’s hope Krispey Kreme got permission…. We have been covering stories about the SUPERHERO trademark for years, so here are some horror stories about the great lengths DC and Marvel Comics have gone to in protecting their marks.
Super Hero Battleground – A developer’s upcoming game ran into a bug when it tried to register its trademark.
Superhero Donuts – Children started this donut brand as part of a church project…this didn’t stop the enforcement of the mark.
Teenage Zombie Superhero: Marvel Zombies were ready to take on this teenage superhero.
And there are more stories, just type “superhero” in the search bar to see more. In conclusion, on this National Superhero Day please take some time to reflect on all the trademarks containing the word SUPERHERO that have been lost over the years, struck down in the endless conflict between creators and Marvel and DC Comics.