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Marvel and DC Enforce "Superhero" Trademark

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the stupid-legal-moves dept.

430

An anonymous reader writes "GeekPunk is announcing that their flagship comic book title featuring superheroes patronizing their favorite bar & grill during their off-hours will now be entitled Hero Happy Hour beginning with the fifth issue of the ongoing series. According to creator Dan Taylor, "The decision to change the title was brought upon by the fact that we received a letter from the trademark counsel to 'the two big comic book companies' claiming that they are the joint owners of the trademark 'SUPER HEROES' and variations thereof." " Read the recent boingboing post for more background as well.

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430 comments

I've trademarked the phase ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14956949)

Super assholes to describe the tatics used by the executives of most media companies.

Re:I've trademarked the phase ... (1)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956969)

Please don't. If you do, then no one will be able to talk about what Marvel and DC are doing.

Holy ruined comics Batman! (5, Funny)

Paperghost (942699) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956955)

Look, up in the sky, its a shattered childhood.

Re:Holy ruined comics Batman! (0, Offtopic)

revscat (35618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957022)

I bought the "Schoolhouse Rock" DVD recently for my kids, and we came across "The Preamble" one. You remember, the one where they sing a song about the preamble to the constitution?

"Weee the people of the United Sta-ates, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility-y-y-y.." etc.

It fucking made me cry. I believe that shit with all my heart and the nostalgia combined with the unrivaled abuse that document has taken under the GOP just made me up and weep.

Re:Holy ruined comics Batman! (1)

EatHam (597465) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957138)

Holy Tinfoil Hat, Batman! George Bush killed Superman!

Re:Holy ruined comics Batman! (-1, Troll)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957230)

That's lovely. What does it have to do with the topic at hand?

What? (1, Funny)

Vthornheart (745224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956971)

Fine then. I'm going to go slap a trademark on men wearing tights, and file an injunction against Marvel and DC for violating my trademark. As an added bonus, I can sue people who are still lost in the 80's or perform theatrical choreography. Hmm...

Re:What? (1)

solarbob (959948) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956998)

You have to also patent the idea of wearing underwear on the outside just for that full effect. It opens a whole new segment of the market as well

Good thing... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14956977)

Good thing I trademarked 'super villains' for us linux users. :)

Human Nature at work (1)

Crashmarik (635988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956984)

Why play fair when you can cheat ?

Ones and Zeroes (3, Insightful)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956987)

Reminds me of the old Onion article "Microsoft to patent zeroes, ones." Isn't the term "Super Hero" pretty generic?

Look up in the sky. It's a flying bull. Ewwwww. (5, Informative)

rs79 (71822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957145)

" Isn't the term "Super Hero" pretty generic"

Trademark laws exist to protect the consumer, not the producer.

If you buy a brown fizzy beverage, and if it says "cocacola" you should have some sort of confidence you're buying CocaCola brand of fizzy soft drink.

Is there some consumer confusion that your "superhero" is not a DC or Marvel brand of superhero? To say nothing of the fact if don't activly protect your mark you lose it.

Goog sez: "Results 1 - 50 of about 7,330,000 for "superhero""

If Marvel and DC jointly own the trademark on "superhero" I'd be saying the words "Anti trust". A LOT. And ignoring the C&D letter.

Re:Look up in the sky. It's a flying bull. Ewwwww. (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957197)

Trademark laws exist to protect the consumer, not the producer.

Which means that it should only be the consumer who has standing to sue for infringement, and it is not the consumers here who are complaining that they thought they got DC/Marvel "Superheroes".

Re:Look up in the sky. It's a flying bull. Ewwwww. (1)

DesireCampbell (923687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957211)

"Coca-Cola" is a trademark because they were the first to use that name. Just like "super-hero". Both Marvel and DC were useing the term "Super-hero" for years before they decided they needed a patent, and rather than fight endlessly about who said it first, they share joint ownership of it.

This actually seems like one of the most mature things two companies have ever done.

Re:Ones and Zeroes (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957173)

It's as generic as, say, kleenex, xerox, or coke.

It was inserted into the public consciousness as a term by these comics writers. They trademarked it in 1967.

Just because everyone uses it to refer to Superman and Aquaman doesn't mean that "everyone" invented the term.

Re:Ones and Zeroes (3, Funny)

Mercano (826132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957214)

"Just because everyone uses it to refer to Superman and Aquaman doesn't mean that "everyone" invented the term."

Well, Superman, at least. Aquaman's heroics don't extend much past the shore.

Is it really so crazy? (2, Insightful)

Kombat (93720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956990)

Before this thread is consumed by non-lawyers editorializing about what a legal travesty this is, let me first put forth a question: If this argument was about the term "Superman" instead of "Superhero," would it be any less absurd? I mean, surely we'll all agree that "Superman" is a clearly trademarkable name, and has been capitalized on by its creators for decades. But isn't the coined word "Superman" just as generic as the coined word "Superhero?" Aren't they both merely the concatenation of two relatively common words in the English language?

Let's just admit that they've created something new, and it's not entirely unreasonable for them to wish to protect their exclusive use of their creations.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957020)

But isn't the coined word "Superman" just as generic as the coined word "Superhero?" Aren't they both merely the concatenation of two relatively common words in the English language?

If anything, "superhero" is more novel. "Superman" comes from Nietzsche, and the subsequent abuse of his terminology by the Nazis.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (4, Insightful)

Vthornheart (745224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957021)

The shady part to me is that Marvel and DC claim co-ownership of it. Not to say that I'll point a stiff finger at them and accuse them of wrongdoing (though in an above post I poke some fun for the sake of humor), but I would like to know how they managed to "co-create" the term. Did they both happen to create it at the same time, or are they merely claiming co-creation as a way of allowing each other to have exclusive rights to an obvious term, at the detriment of smaller comic companies?

Perhaps someone has some insight into the history of the word "superhero" that might be helpful to this discussion?

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

Wordsmith (183749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957027)

I have no idea whether it -is- trademarked, but it seems to me that it shouldn't be. After all, Nietze talked about his "superman" long before Clark Kent was Superman. And it's a pretty obvious hybrid of normal words - Super and Man. A man who is super. What's more plain than that?

Re:Is it really so crazy? (2, Informative)

Frozen Void (831218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957136)

Nietzche Overman(%C3%9Cbermensch in german) is different then your brand name Kryptonian.

he overman is the individual who can overcome the herd instinct, who can take on values and morals not of the society. This is contrasted with one who wields power over others (although the overman, having overcome himself, will consequently dominate those who have not); the overman is about being "judge and avenger and victim of one's own law" rather than that of others or one's society. As such, the overman creates his own values.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nietzche#Overman [wikipedia.org]
Besides your should read his books anyway.He one of most Influental philosophers of the west.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957038)

Isn't superman also a biology term for men with an extra Y chromosome (and superwomen for an extra X)? Said people aren't allowed to be in the Olympics because they have a physical advantage over normal XY/XX people. Or are they called supermales/superfemales?

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

salmon_austin (955310) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957085)

do you have any links to back that up?

I find it hard to believe that.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

semiotec (948062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957198)

You've read too many comicbooks and science fictions.

Extra X or Y chromosome actually causes defects such as skeletal abnormalities, decreased IQ, and delayed development, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

hublan (197388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957215)

Said people aren't allowed to be in the Olympics because they have a physical advantage over normal XY/XX people.

Despite the name it's a deficiency and a bad one at that. Trisomoy, in practically all cases, really screws up the machinery (Down syndrome, birth defects etc). If not, they would've been an evolutionary advantege and everyone would have them by now.

For further info see wikipedia's links on XYY [wikipedia.org] and XXY [wikipedia.org] trisomy [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

ahmusch (777177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957039)

Nietzche's got prior art for Superman anyhow.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957056)

Superman is a pretty specific example of "Super Hero".
Just like a "Smart for two" is a specific example of a "Car".
Claiming a trademark on Superman, means you can't use Superman as a character, or company without falling foul of Trademark laws (and rightly so).
Just like you can't sell a car under the name of a "Smart for two" without it actually being that car.
The problem here is that "Super Hero" doesn't actually make you think of anything other than a highly generic set of characters, many of which don't have anything to do with DC or Marvel.
It would be like a company claiming to own the trademark on the word "Car".
These days, it really is a generic, and ought to be treated as such.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957066)

Over here, you might have a problem copyrighting the name "Superman". What you can do is copyright the combination of person and tag (a superhero named Superman), but the name "Superman" by itself could not be copyrighted, because it is too broad and generic.

Same for Superhero, btw. You could copyright a certain implementation ("The Superheros of Xexxxalak"), but a "Superhero" by itself is a very generic term.

Unless of course you can prove that you originally coined the term and the trade mark itself became, in popular culture, the name for the generic thing. It's a rare and very treasured feat if you manage to do something like this. 2 companies that managed to achive it are Xerox and Google. When you manage to get people to use your company name as the verb for doing what your main product does, you won.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (2, Interesting)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957074)

People already associate the term with super heroes other than Marvel and DC's. They associated the term with characters other than Marvel and DC's before they even filed. They trademarked a commonly used term; therefore, their trademark should not be valid.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (2, Interesting)

GuloGulo (959533) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957225)

"They associated the term with characters other than Marvel and DC's before they even filed."

Well, it was filed several decades ago, so I'm not sure how you can declare this so certainly.

"They trademarked a commonly used term; therefore, their trademark should not be valid."

They trademarked a term that decribes a genre that one of them appears to have invented (DC with Superman, save the arguments, it's pretty much accepted and I don't care what you think otherwise) and didn't become common until well after it was used by them first.

It appears your objections are unrelated to what actually happened.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14957084)

I think the difference is, and its a vital one in trademark disputes, it that superman is a brand. He's a character that's been developed over many years and even when people use the term "superman" or "supermen" to describe other people, they are doing a correct comparison to THE superman.

Superhero is a generic term, used to descriptively for a hole range of character, both comic both and not. The idea of heroes with super powers goes back to thousands of years, so the idea it's a unique trademark is more than a bit daft. The fact that it's so widely used in book, comic, tv and cinema outside of DC/Marvel, and that in the near 40 years they've held the trademark they've not defended it should mean they would lose any court case. But the idea of most Cease and Desists isn't to enter into a court battle, it's to scare people/companies who can't afford to go to court against a multi-national to cave in and give up something they agressor doesn't have the right to take.

Yes, it is. (2, Informative)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957090)

Superman, used as a proper noun, refers to a guy who wears blue tights and red underwear with a red cape, shoots lasers from his eyes, flies, and is vulnerable to kryptonite.

Superman, used as a common noun, is a variant of superhuman.

The former usage is clearly covered by trademark; the latter is clearly not.

In this case, the term 'superhero' is common enough to be outside trademark, in my opinion. It's a plain compound, and while the decomposition would refer to a superset of the composed meaning, it's pretty damn close. Anyway, the OED first lists the term being used in 1917 by Greenhill Press, so they would hold the trademark if anyone. The company appears to be defunct, though.

Re:Yes, it is. (1)

Andrew Clegg (952015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957226)

Anyway, the OED first lists the term being used in 1917 by Greenhill Press, so they would hold the trademark if anyone.

Trademarks don't work like that, they're not automatic like copyrights.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

bluewolfcv (833537) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957093)

Superman vs. superman. Superman clearly refers to Clark Kent's night (and sometimes) day job, while superman is, according to American Heritage, "A man with more than human powers" which began with Nietsche, not with comic books.

How can you trademark a single dictionary word? I can understand if it's a phrase, but a single dictionary word? Granted, xerox is in the dictionary, but it is made plain that it is a trademark that has wound its way into the vernacular. I think Marvel and DC's claim to superhero is flawed and unfounded. But the voice of reason is often all to silent in a litigous society.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

Andrew Clegg (952015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957167)

How can you trademark a single dictionary word? I can understand if it's a phrase, but a single dictionary word?

Apple? Orange? Windows? Borders? Starbucks (young male rabbits IIRC)? Happens all the time.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

Jon Luckey (7563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957100)

I mean, surely we'll all agree that "Superman" is a clearly trademarkable name

No! Its clearly a derived work coming from Nietzsche's concept of "Übermensch" [wikipedia.org] :)

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

Vandilizer (201798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957115)

Yes but...

"Superman" is an identifiable thing that can be tied to a specific object. A base idea if you will. If you are given a set of images you could identify what ones had superman in them.

A "Superhero" is, well an idea. Not anything tangible. (An abstract class if you will on to which all good Things can be inherited from). Given the same set of images as above things suddenly do not become clear.

Also the length of time that ether a "Superhero" or "Superman" have been around that there copy right would have expired by now. (But that would be hoping too much on the US government)

One a side note: Dose this mean that the creators of Unix or who ever created the fist operating system can sue Microsoft and ask them to stop claming that they are Such. (Ah dreams).

All and all this seams as absurd as the problem that people have with using the word marriage to mean "A union between two people" (I will let some one else explain that).

Re:Is it really so crazy? (0, Redundant)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957148)

Ever hear of Ubermensch? I pretty sure the philosopher Nietsche coined it in the 1880's or around that time, but I could be wrong.

From the German, it literally translates to "Super" "Person".

http://personal.ecu.edu/mccartyr/great/projects/Kn owles.htm [ecu.edu]

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

robespierremax (800417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957169)

Everyone's stepping over the obvious here. Superman was created in 1939 by DC comics. Before this comics and novel had "heroes". By the very definition of the term "Superhero" you can see it clearly started with Superman. Several years down the road, Marvel comics spun off of DC and they used the term "Superhero" to describe their characters. Thus, Superhero was born and DC & Marvel were awarded joint patent. There is nothing to see here but mindless corporate bashing.

Re:Is it really so crazy? (1)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957176)

Let's just admit that they've created something new, and it's not entirely unreasonable for them to wish to protect their exclusive use of their creations.

Or, here's a better idea: lets just admit that the system was absurd to begin with, and talk about why that has been allowed to persist?

Now if you don't mind, I'd like to gaze out my Windows(TM) for awhile and contemplate it.

For more information... (1)

steveit_is (650459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956991)

Check out this hillarious spoof comic [blogspot.com] via BoingBoing.

The article has a small typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14956993)

They are actually trademarking "Superwhore," which describes their business philosophy.

Something Similar (2, Interesting)

trianglecat (318478) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956995)

Yep... these boys dont mess around. I played in a band for several years called "boywonder" and when a band of the same name surfaced, we naturally went after trademark rights. DC Comics were quickly on us requesting that any product with the use of the name be sent to them for examination citing infringement.

We had released two albums under the name and they were very good about finally allowing us continued use of the name after about 8 months but, unfortunately, we had already changed names given a CD release and tour hanging over our heads.

Re:Something Similar (1)

joshsisk (161347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957052)

I knew a guy who played in a band called "boy wonder" in Pennsylvania. They changed their name to "boywunder".. any relation to your story?

Re:Something Similar (1)

trianglecat (318478) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957170)

We were based in Canada so no direct relation, although we made a TM application in the U.S. We were granted exclusive use of the name as a band in the end as it related to our back material (2 albums, 1 a major label release in Europe). We had made DC aware of our reasons for attempting to secure the name and its possible they went after others. We were aware of at least 3 bands at the time with the same/similar names.

Re:Something Similar (1)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957061)

DC Comics were quickly on us requesting that any product with the use of the name be sent to them for examination citing infringement.

The words "pound" and "sand" figured prominently in the attorney's response I'll guess. Trademarks are limited by market.

Re:Something Similar (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957132)

I played in a band for several years called "boywonder" and when a band of the same name surfaced, we naturally went after trademark rights. DC Comics were quickly on us requesting that any product with the use of the name be sent to them for examination citing infringement.

Since trademarks are ment to be specific to business types (and geography) you probably had more reason for going after the other band than DC Comics had for going after you. But no doubt they had more money to spend on lawyers, this being the kind of situation where depth of pockets matters more than the intent of the laws in question.

Since 1967 (4, Informative)

Grrr (16449) | more than 8 years ago | (#14956996)

http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=7 7m69u.2.87 [uspto.gov]

Registration Date

March 14, 1967

Owner

(REGISTRANT) BEN COOPER, INC. CORPORATION NEW YORK 33 34TH ST. BROOKLYN NEW YORK

(LAST LISTED OWNER) DC COMICS, INC. CORPORATION ASSIGNEE OF NEW YORK 666 FIFTH AVENUE NEW YORK NEW YORK 10103

(LAST LISTED OWNER) MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, INC. CORPORATION ASSIGNEE OF DELAWARE 387 PARK AVENUE SOUTH NEW YORK NEW YORK 10016


<grrr />

Re:Since 1967 (1)

ferrellcat (691126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957129)

Hmmm...the link didn't work (seems it is based on a session), but regardless, you can do a search HERE [uspto.gov] , and see that there are dozens of trademarks that have been granted using the name "superhero" or "super hero".
 
Why would the trademake office grant these trademarks, if they infringed on the DC/Marvel trademark?

Re:Since 1967 (1)

datadood (184067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957134)

Trademarks are supposed to register a word in reference to a specific good or service. This one seems to refer to masquerade costumes and the word superhero.

If you go to the Trademark Website, http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm [uspto.gov] you can search trademarks. Searching for "superhero" and "super hero" yields quite a few hits. I didn't check all of them to see if any refer to using the word in a comic book.

Datadood

Re:Since 1967 (1)

Firewalker_Midnights (943814) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957144)

(LAST LISTED OWNER) DC COMICS, INC. CORPORATION ASSIGNEE OF NEW YORK 666 FIFTH AVENUE NEW YORK NEW YORK 10103

So it is true... DC Comics are the devil... (That would also explain Hellblazer being turned into a shitty movie called Constantine).

I've given up hope on the big two a long time ago, they don't really care that much about the comics unless they make them a lot of money.

I wonder, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14957000)

Do they own the trademark on Super Bullies(TM) too?

Unenforced? (3, Interesting)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957001)

Is it my imagination or has this never before been enforced? If this is the first time that it has been enforeced, can their hold on this generic term be great?

    This really does seem as silly as a PB&J parent, but it sure might be legel in the eyes of the current system.

Re:Unenforced? (2, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957054)

This really does seem as silly as a PB&J parent...

No kidding. ButterBoy or JellyGirl do seem pretty silly to me.

Re:Unenforced? (1)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957099)

Great! Mind if I use those names for a few Champions characts?

Underdog (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957004)

That lawyer is operating a cartel running a "restraint of trade" operation. If I start a "car" company, and the lawyer for GM, Ford, Toyota and Mercedes tried to stop me from "abusing their trademark", I'd be deluged by lawyers slavering for their piece of the antimonopoly action.

That's the kind of abuse that launched MCI against the AT&T monopoly, opened the telco industry to some competition, and enriched a generation of lawyers. This time, the comic can still do business while complying with the abusive Cease & Desist letter, while getting justice and bucks.

old story? (2, Informative)

fugu (99277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957005)

Um, is it just me or does the link go to a post from 2004?

Re:old story? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957116)

Well, the link here complains about a mysql error (slashdotted?), but I first heard about this in 2004. However, back then it only included the terms "superhero" and "super hero". According to this [boingboing.net] , however, they now are also trying to get a trademark on the the hyphenated term "super-hero" as well. So there is some newness to it.

Idiots.

"Superhero" as a trade mark? (1, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957006)

Seriously? What's next, Disney copyrighting antropomorphic animals?

The concept of superheros goes back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Back then, they were deified, but since that's no longer really an option with monotheistic religions, what we have now is superheroes. They have godlike powers (can lift heavy things, can fly, can see through stuff, can forsee the future, and so on), they interfere with the human world and try to make things "right", in other words, they function like the gods of old times.

Sometimes they're even "human" enough to have some of the worse traits of ancient gods. Makes them less godly and more credible.

But copyrighting the very idea of having entities that are capable of executing extraordinary feats, I guess the church might have problems accepting that their angels are on the verge of being (c) Marvel as well.

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (2, Informative)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957094)

The concept of superheros
Nobody said anything about 'concepts'.

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957162)

When you can't name your superhero as what he is, a superhero, do we need to invent a new language to circumvent copyright laws this way? What should we call them? "Extraordinary person"? Sounds too politically correct for me. "Phat d00d"? Too dumb. "The great wonder?" Sounds more like a name for a hero.

What happened here is that the generic name for a group of people was copyrighted. It does touch the very concept itself, because if you can't refer to a group by a generally well known name, you cannot inform the audience what you are going to give them.

If you create a superhero comic, how do you want to tell the people enjoying superhero comics that your comic is just that?

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (4, Informative)

gaj (1933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957103)

While I certainly don't condone what Marvel and DC appear to be trying to do, please don't further confuse the issue, if you can at all help it.

This had nothing at all to do with copyright. Nor is the concept being claimed here.

It is the word "Superhero" that is being claimed as protected by trademark law. Within the letter of the law, they may have a vaild claim.

That doesn't make them any less foul, though.

Also, I think that much argument can be made that they have long since lost any claim to the trademark. They've not been defending it at all until now. If you don't defend a trademark, you lose it.

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (1)

MrTester (860336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957109)

No Offense, but Im not sure why the parent mas moded 5 as insightful.

No one is talking about copyrighting the idea of superheros. They are talking about trademark infringement of the word "Superhero"

Trademark on the term, not a patent on the concept (1)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957153)

They don't argue that the concept of an individual who can leap tall buildings in a single bound is trademarked--you would have to patent the concept, and we don't have such patents yet (as far as I recall).

Rather, they say you can only use the term 'superhero' if you pay them a royalty.

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (3, Interesting)

mausmalone (594185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957154)

They haven't trademarked the concept of a super hero, just the term. What I don't get is how one could trademark a classification or genre. The way it seems to me (and please let me know if I'm way off base), it's like if one record company could trademark a genre (let's say "punk") and then prevent all other companies from releasing music using the genre name, regardless of the fact that that's the correct classification... and also preventing people from making a "punk hour" at a bar even if they'll be having a live performance and the term is applicable. Does that seem like a good analogy?

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957208)

What are you talking about? This isn't locking up the concept of super-heroes, this is locking up the term "super-hero". This has nothing to do with copyright, and everything to do with trademarks.

People can still make super-human characters that fight evil, they just can't call them "super-heroes". Did the Epic of Gilgamesh use the actual term "super-hero"? Does the Bible call angels "super-heroes"?

It's sad when any random anti-IP blather can make it to +5, Insightful even when it is uninformed nonsense.

Re:"Superhero" as a trade mark? (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957234)

IANAL, but I'm sure DC/Marvel can't stop me from creating a character who can derail locomotives & leap tall buildings. I just can't legally call him a "superhero". Instead, I might call him an Enhanced Human (c)

why roll over? (1)

EllynGeek (824747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957018)

The article doesn't give much information, but I'm curious why they would just roll over and comply? Or did they get legal advice that said "yep, you better do what they say"? Or did they just go "eee I'm scared, better change stuff." Just because you get a letter from some corporate lawyer saying "you have to do this" doesn't mean you have to do this.

Re:why roll over? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14957070)

There should be plenty of information on the case by now, the comic was renamed over 2 years ago and BoingBoing's most recent blurb was merely there to announce that Marvel and DC, by sponsoring a science show, got Superhero(TM) included in one of the flyers.

come on... (0)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957025)

is there anything that you can't patent now? yesterday I read about someone patenting all thoughts connecting two things, now they have words which (regardless of who originally created them) which are used commonly by the public and are not associated in the public mind with any particular company or "intellectual property"... should I begin patenting words before they get into the dictionary so that when they become commonly used I can do this kind of thing... where will it end... come to think of it I should patent the phrase "It's the end of civilisation" and then I can annoy people as our society is crumbling because of things like this

/flame off

No (1)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957026)

No such thing as rights to a "variation" on a trademark. Trademarks are extremely specific and limited only to the market in which they are used. If someone wanted to market "Super Hero" tires, they would be absolutely within their rights to not only use the name but trademark it as well.

This is similiar to the "Copyright Notice" that appears at most Kinko's which states with certainty that it is against the law to duplicate copyrighted material. That is absolutely false, and the people who wrote it know its false.

About time people started to understand the law is not "everything for them and nothing for me."

/.'ed (1)

include($dysmas) (729935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957033)

looks like the db freaked out and fell over .. gotta love the message :

"An E-Mail has been dispatched to our Technical Staff, who you can also contact if the problem persists."

someone is going to have a lot of email.

in other news, how many "IANAL but :" comment bait stories can this site take in one day?

The Incredibles (1)

mccalli (323026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957034)

Hmm. Never heard Pixar complain. Did they license, or is this another 'they have less money than us and can't defend' suit?

Cheers,
Ian

Check the dictionary folks (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957035)

Anyone can have a trademark, but even MS can't trademark 'windows' all by itself, as it is a common word, that refers to more than MS products. In this case, I'd have to say that m-w.com shows superhero and superhuman to be common nouns, and thus should not be a protected trademark. Now, on the other hand, batman, spiderman etc. should be, and 'brand x superheros' also should be protected, but just superhero... that's just wrong

Re:Check the dictionary folks (2, Informative)

mccalli (323026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957149)

Now, on the other hand, batman, spiderman etc. should be, and 'brand x superheros' also should be protected, but just superhero... that's just wrong

Batman is a normal English word - it's a rank in the British Army. I'm not sure if the rank is still current or not, and I'm not certain if it's only the British Army. But it's definitely not an invented word for superheroes. In fact, I've always suspected the idea for the Batman character came from the silliness of the original batman word.

Cheers,
Ian

Super Duper (1)

VanillaBabies (829417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957045)

This can only be described as "Super Dumb", i hope that the companies involved stop acting like "super villains" because i'd hate to get sued for using something as "super common" as "super hero" when i write something as "super insipid" as this comment. Gosh, it's "super hard" to put an adjective such as "super" in front of a noun such as "hero". I'm glad they came up with that for us. Oh wait...

This whole thing "super stinks".

So much for Truth, Justice and The American Way. (2, Insightful)

blcamp (211756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957046)


And I'll probably get sued for this moment of lamentation...

/. effect (1)

e5z8652 (528912) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957049)

>An E-Mail has been dispatched to our Technical Staff, who you can also contact if the problem persists.

>We apologise for any inconvenience.

Oof. We get to /. their e-mail server too!

Super Whats? (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957050)

I think that Warren Ellis has the right idea. We should just call them "Underwear Perverts" and be done with it.

Let Marvel and DC try to copyright that.

Awesome Braveguys* (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957058)

Look out criminals, a new brand of excellent martyrs are on the horizon, its 'The Awesome Braveguys!'*

*Awesome Braveguys and the Awesome Braveguys logo registered trademarks of Awesome Braveguys Enterprises, Inc.
The Awesome Braveguys 'AB' emblem is a trademark of Awesome Braveguys Corporation and are used under license to Awesome Braveguys, Inc.
All other references in this post to Awesome Braveguys and Awesome Braveguys manufacturers, toys, and photos are for informational purposes only and are not intended to imply any endorsement by or affiliation with the Awesome Braveguys manufacturer.

But it's in the dictionary! (1, Insightful)

ttfkam (37064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957063)

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=superhero [reference.com]

So they went after a bar, but not the dictionaries that list the incredibly commonly used word. Why? Because the bar makes money off the word? So do dictionary companies.

The dictionary is where we go for Scrabble help. It's the definitive answer to the question, "Is that a word?" Not a group of words or made-up words -- singular items of the language. They should not be subject to trademark, especially not in a completely unrelated business sector.

Also, trademarks must be enforced if they are to be kept. Marvel and DC didn't enforce it when it showed up in the dictionary. Unless they really want to remove it from the general lexicon, they should lose this trademark. Hell, they should lose this trademark period!

Marvel + DC = SuperIdiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14957064)

How long before they realize their superheroes movie franchises won't last forever, c'mon, most of these "blockbusters" are based on stuff from the 60s plus their audience/public will age soon.

Pulling the corporate BS and trying to trademark something that is common use is utter ridiculous, well, what else can you expect if until NOW Stan Lee is seeing profits from his work.

This was TWO YEARS AGO! (4, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957068)

The posts linked are dated 01-30-2004.

WTF? A "news" site generally deals with current events. Or at the very least, mentions the rather relvant fact that this is history, not news. Of course, that would be assuming that the Slashdot editors actually RTFA.

Re:This was TWO YEARS AGO! (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957146)

And following up;

"ongoing series."

Right.

Visiting geekpunk.cm [geekpunk.com] , one finds it was cancelled OVER A YEAR AGO.

"February 23, 2005 - GeekPunk, the independent comic book publishers of the critically acclaimed and fan favorite superhero comedy comic book Hero Happy Hour, regrets to announce that the title is now on a temporary hiatus for an undetermined amount of time."

"News"?

Well then (3, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957073)

If they have a valid trademark should use their trademark properly.

For example, the following use (from Marvel's web site) in it's correct adjectival sense:

Throughout World War II, Captain America and Bucky fought the Nazi menace both on their own and as members of the superhero team the Invaders, which after the war evolved into the All-Winners Squad.

You see here, that the use "superhero" adjective could in theory at least be used to differentiate their "team" product from similar products of their competitors. On the other hand, the following is clearly an improper use of their own presumed mark as a noun (and despite the capitalization, a common noun):

If you've ever wanted to hear your voice come out of a Marvel Superhero's body-or if you are looking for a chance to break into the world of voice acting-then this is your chance!

This should read:

If you've ever wanted to hear your voice come out of a Marvel Superhero character's body-or if you are looking for a chance to break into the world of voice acting-then this is your chance!

Using it as a common noun (which they do throughout their web site, although it is sometimes capitalized) is tantamount to admitting the term is generic.

I am FirstPostman! (2, Insightful)

Asklepius M.D. (877835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957075)

Faster than everybody else! Stronger than the weak! Able to leap to conclusions in a single bound! Sworn enemy of the dreaded RIAA! Destroyer of the Gates of hell! I'd have been a superhero if I weren't deathly afraid of lawsuits.....and girls :p

Re:I am FirstPostman! (1)

Asklepius M.D. (877835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957101)

Umm...did I mention the leaping to conclusions part?

Who's surprised? More stupidity to follow. (1)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957077)

Doesn't Thomas Edison have a trademark on DC? And I think God has a trademark on Marvel.

An uncommonly bad case of the Mondays... (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957078)

Dear god. Flooded areas of my 7th floor. No tech casualties, but "WTF?!" "Super Heroes" trademarked? I think the fool backed down too quickly. It's way to generic a term that can likely be demonstrated as being such for several decades. Who needs a lawyer to defend this? Just walk into a court room and say "Judge, this is complete bullshit! I move countersue for the revocation of this ridiculous trademark on the grounds that the words are too commonly used."

In Soviet America (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957083)

you unleash the lawyers on smaller competition, with the help of state endorsed terrorism as all-encompassing patents (even cursory and half-assed thoughts will cover whole fields now), perpetual and backwards copyrights (didn't Disney come up with all those Brother Grimm stories?), and trademarks on every dictionary entry.

Who you can't sue, you buy. Who you can't buy, you merge with to create a synergistic whole.

Eventually we'll be one giant happy family under the one true megacorp who the government will outsource all it's divisions to. You'll see.

In the meantime, China will be laughing at us while they outsource their industries to a portion of the Third World formerly known as the United States. Which has been trademarked so we can't use it anymore.

By the way, I own the copyrights to all the tags such as "offtopic", "redundant", "overrated", "troll" and "flamebait" - so you'll have to ask my permission before you mod me down - or I'll see you in a court of law, perhaps:P

Greek? (1)

Martigan80 (305400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957102)

Why not use SuperGyro? Sounds the same if you pronounce it correctly ;)

TFA doesn't say but Marvel/DC jointly filed... (4, Informative)

Hamster Lover (558288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957112)

for trademark of the word "superhero" and variations thereof back in 1981. Apparently, there is some controvesy over the joint filing of this shared trademark as trademark law has a "single source" requirement. However,
there is precedent of two companies sharing a trademark, but is supposed to be quite quite rare.

I am not sure how accurate this information as a lot it is from disparate sources, so someone please correct me if I am wrong.

Anyway, I don't see how Marvel/DC can claim a trademark on a word that has been in the popular lexicon for over fifty years.

Trademarks are the same as copyright and patents (1, Troll)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957142)

I'm anti-copyright and anti-patent as I believe they destroy the desire to invent -- the legal hassles of trying to make sure your creation is unique leaves the power of invention to the distribution cartels.

I believe the market would provide many ways to profit without the force of government backing up the inventors, and I think trademarks are no different.

Copyright and patents and trademarks were intended to protect for a very short period of time so the creator and only the creator can make enough profit to keep food on the table. Today, that government force is only profitable for those powerful enough to control all the distribution cycles.

This is a tragedy that a real artist loses to the content cartels -- proof yet again that these avenues of force do not protect the common man, and should be abolished. All trademark really means is a legal structure that utilizes government force to protect residual value. Most jobs have zero residual value, and I believe that's the way it should be. Get paid for the work you do, not future uses of the products you made and then sold to another.

Isn't this a 2 year old story? (0, Redundant)

snarlydwarf (532865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957152)

Did I wake up wrong or something?

Aren't all the dates on this "news" story from 2004?

I don't understand the indignation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14957156)

The first example of a superhero in comics is Superman (you can argue, but it's seems to be accepted as the case) so DC did it first.

They have also enforced their trademark repeatedly, so they create something novel, use the correct channels to protect themselves, and... get hammered?

When Linus did this with "Linux" in Austrailia, the comments went entirely in the other direction.

All of you pissing and moaning about this being wrong or evil amaze me. You have no idea what you're crying about, yet you cry louder than anyone else.

Oh right, this is slashtroll, where patents/trademarks/copyright is automatically evil, and people who disagree are automatically modded out of sight.

Grow up people, you're wrong and you don;t even know why. How embarrassing for you.

Genericized trademark (2, Interesting)

szembek (948327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957172)

I believe 'super hero' would fall under a genericized trademark. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark [wikipedia.org]

If the mark does not perform this essential function and it is no longer possible to legally enforce rights in relation to the mark, the mark may have become generic. A generic mark forms part of the public domain and can be commercially exploited by anyone.

FIrst time enforced? (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957178)

Sorry, but much like Xerox lost the right to their name as a verb, Super Hero is now a part of the English language. They should have been enforcing this for the last 20 years at least. Strangley though I'm at a loss for an example of someone else using Super Hero in a title... lots of descriptions, just can't think of any titles. (edit.. there's a band called SuperHero apparently).

I CAN think of a lot of other Comic book IP that has been infringed over the years.... to the benefit of Marvel and DC... lots of pop culture that kept their characters, etc. in the public eye while comic books themselves fell out of favor with the ADD generation.

It's been like this for ages (2, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957210)

I remember the GURPs supers book calling the SuperHeros 'Metahumans' becaues Marvel/DC threatened to sue. It sucked rocks then, and it sucks rocks now. It's ridiculous, a trademark identiifies a business. Marvel's a trade mark, so is DC. I don't know of any company called 'SuperHero'. Shit, why not let them patent it while your at it so the next time someguy flys around in tights they can sue.

Compiling a list of compund nouns to trademark now (1)

slagell (959298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14957216)

Didn't realize you could trademark compound nouns that make it into common language. I am going to started on my list of trademarked words right now! Word of warning, anyone who uses dillhole on slashdot, expect a letter from my lawyer.
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