Movie studios have a whole lot of money, and there are a lot of people in the world who would love to have even a small portion of that kind of money. This has led to some very strange legal arguments, such as in 2008 when the Mayor of Batman, a city in Turkey, announced his intention to sue Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. for using the name of his city without permission in The Dark Knight.
At the time, someone must have whispered some good advice in the Mayor of Batman’s ear, because there was no follow-up news of Warner Bros. actually receiving legal notice. Several years later, though, the studio was sued by the company behind a computer security program called Clean Slate, which claimed that Selina Kyle’s reference to a software program that will give her a “clean slate” in The Dark Knight Rises was a trademark infringement. Warner Bros. won the lawsuit.
There are few people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who have more money than Iron Man, and so now it’s Tony Stark’s turn to feel the sting of a copyright claim. TheWrap reports that Horizon Comics Productions owners Ben and Ray Lai have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Massachusetts this week, claiming that the Iron Man suit featured in the Marvel movies infringes on their comic book series Radix.
The Lai brothers created Radix in 2001, and Horizon’s lawsuit states that the “highly detailed, mechanized suits of body armor” that the characters in the comics wear has been appropriated by Marvel and Disney. The lawsuit also claims that the original Marvel comic books “typically depicted Iron Man wearing simple spandex-like attire and minimal armor,” and that it wasn’t until the movies came along that Iron Man began wearing increasingly complex suits of full body armor.
Presumably the Lai brothers’ lawyers are just really hoping that no one actually checks this claim against the original Marvel comics, because there’s a reason that Iron Man is not called Spandex Man. The character’s first appearance in a 1963 issue of Tales of Suspense depicted him wearing a full suit of iron body armor, and the suit that we know today is still more or less based on the red-and-gold edition of the Iron Man suit that was first seen in December 1963.
This isn’t the first time that Horizon Comics has taken legal action against Marvel and Disney. The new lawsuit also mentions that the company previously sent a cease and desist letter claiming that a poster for Iron Man 3 (pictured above) looked a lot like Radix artwork. Of course, the image of a superhero landing on one knee with one hand to the floor and the other hand raised is very common, so much so that Flickering Myth wrote a feature about the trend in 2013 that described it as “the most over used and iconic superhero movie pose ever created.”
As Deadline points out, the statute of limitations for copyright complaints is three years from the initial infringement and it’s been seven years since Robert Downey Jr. first donned the armor in Iron Man. Even if that were not the case, this lawsuit has a lot of holes in it and the Lai brothers are unlikely to ever see the unspecified damages that they demand.
Check out Tony Stark’s latest acts of copyright infringement when Avengers: Age of Ultron lands in U.S. theaters on May 1st, 2015.