Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The ultimate superpower is litigation

As part of our ongoing series on the surreal world of intellectual property (see the last post), here's a fun fact from comic book writer and historian Don Markstein:
Marvel and DC Comics are arch-rivals when it comes to market share in the comic book industry. But they're capable of an amazing degree of cooperation when it comes to maintaining their shared position as the industry's leaders. One of the ways they cooperate is in maintaining a joint trademark on the word "superhero" — as if Charlton, Harvey, Archie, ACG and Gold Key, to name only a few of the dozens that used both the genre and the word back before they established their mutual legal hegemony over it, never existed — to say nothing of Dark Horse, Image and others that use the genre today and aren't permitted to use the word.

In fact, here's a Dell comic book that actually made the term its very title, long before Marvel and DC decided to sew up rights to it. This should serve as a beacon to anyone willing to attempt to withstand the mighty onslaught of their lawyers, and point out that the word was in general use, with nobody even attempting to prevent others' using it, even before Superman.

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