This week on an ALL NEW episode of the World’s Greatest Comic Book Podcast! Terry Gilliam will finally make his Don Quixote movie. Gambit gets a director. Shane is the Punisher. A Supreme Court Justice cites Spider-Man in a patent ruling. In comics, Marvel Marketing announced 9 post-Secret Wars titles last week, and now we just want it to be over so we can read these books! Bob asks: “will there be another Spider-man?”
All this and Strokémon! Face front, true believers! It’s Hold 322!
Ask and it shall be delivered. Here is what I’ve been able to find out on the Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment case, and why the FindLaw blog talks about Superman instead of Spider-Man. I tried not to make it too boring, but please feel free to edit as necessary. Patent law is, shall we say, not the most exciting thing in the world.
The short answer as to why the article I forwarded to you talks about Superman, when the case is about Spider-Man, is as follows: I think that the author of the article knows as much about comic books as Jeff knows about the correct pronunciation of stare decisis (Yep, gonna make y’all try to say it again).
It is possible that the majority might have gotten the decision wrong. The case involves a patent on a toy that shoots silly string from a device that you wear on your wrist. So you can be like your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man™ (by doing the things a spider can). Mr. Kimble had a patent on this device registered in 1990. Marvel began selling a Spider-Man Web Blaster toy in 1997. Mr. Kimble sued, and the two sides came to a settlement whereby Marvel paid Mr. Kimble royalties. There was no end date to this agreement.
Sometime later, Marvel became aware of Brulotte v. Thys Co., a 1964 Supreme Court decision that limited royalties payments beyond the life of the patent (20 years). So Marvel stopped paying the royalties in 2010, when the patent expired. Mr. Kimble was basically asking the Supremes to overturn Brulotte. Apparently, Brulotte has come under a fair amount of criticism in recent years. Many legal scholars, and some judges, have criticized it as poorly decided.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Kagan, told Mr. Kimble that he was out of luck. The doctrine of stare decisis (“to stand by things decided”) applied, and that Brulotte mandated that he receive no royalties after the patent expired in 2010. As James Daily at the Law and the Multiverse web site put it:
So on the one hand the citation and other references to Spider-Man were fun, but on the other hand it felt a little too cute by half for a decision that will ultimately result in Marvel (now part of the second largest media company in the world) avoiding royalty payments to an individual inventor whose idea Marvel (apparently) pretty blatantly ripped off. The tone of the opinion is incongruous with its consequences.
And there you have it. You wanted listener mail, you got listener mail. Until Justice Scallia sings the Spider-Man song from the bench, Make Mine Hold 322!
P.S. I’m going to have to decline Jeff’s gracious invitation to blow him. I don’t know where he’s been.