Stan Lee Media Files Billion Dollar Lawsuit Against Disney/Marvel

Published 3 years ago by

Stan Lee Media Lawsuit Marvel Disney Stan Lee Media Files Billion Dollar Lawsuit Against Disney/Marvel

The battle between Stan Lee Media, Inc. and Marvel over the rights to The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and more of the company’s most iconic characters has gotten a bit more interesting.

The comic book legend’s former company has filed a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Marvel and parent company Disney, demanding the maximum amount of damages available to them. And given the success of The Avengers, the stakes are high.

While Stan Lee himself has gotten his contracts with Marvel and Disney all sorted out, the nagging issue centers on two documents signed by Stan Lee in 1998: one handing the rights to all Lee characters, past and present to Marvel, and one signing them over to Stan Lee Media, Inc. (SLMI) The problem is, the Marvel agreement came second.

At least those are the claims made by the SLMI in the lawsuit (read it here, courtesy of Deadline) filed on their behalf with the Colorado courts. After having sought bankruptcy protection in 2000, the company now claims that Stan Lee signed the rights to both existing and future developed characters over to Stan Lee Entertainment, Inc. (which would ultimately become SLMI) in October 1998. Lee again signed a document “amending, modifying and confirming the validity of the 1998 SLMI Copyright Assignment” in 2000, which was filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission and the United States Copyright Office.

That may seem a bit jargony, but not out of the ordinary for a creative figure reinforcing the rights to their creations. Lee  was reportedly paid for the rights in shares of SLMI, and named Chairman of the Board. But here’s where things get potentially troubling. The lawsuit states that:

Oddly, in November, 1998, Stan Lee signed a written agreement with Marvel Enterprises, Inc. in which he purportedly assigned to Marvel the rights to the Characters. However, Lee no longer owned those rights since they had been assigned to SLEI previously. Accordingly, the Marvel agreement actually assigned nothing.

Since Marvel never filed such a transferal of rights with the Copyright Office when it the Disney merger was finalized, SLMI is claiming entitlement “to the billions of dollars that Disney has generated [...]within the past three (3) years from motion pictures, and from other media and merchandising” based on The Avengers and others. $5.5 billion, to be exact. This legal quagmire has been brought to court and dismissed half a dozen times, leading one to believe that the same will happen again, but that kind of money is nothing to scoff at. A cash grab on the part of SLMI? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a case.

Marvel Disney Lawsuit Avengers Stan Lee Media Files Billion Dollar Lawsuit Against Disney/Marvel

This isn’t the first time that Marvel has encountered legal issues with some of its creators, having most recently snubbed Thanos creator Jim Starlin (that’s been patched over, luckily). As much as we can sympathize with Stan Lee (the shares of SLMI used to purchase the rights became nearly worthless when the company went bust), the case is a difficult one to weigh in on just yet.

Obviously, the validity of SLMI’s claims – and Lee or Marvel’s explanations (if they have them) – will need to be heard to get some idea of how the case will play out and what role the statute of limitations will play in the proceedings. It’s unlikely Disney will part with that amount of money freely, so expect this to be just the beginning of another chapter in the battle, not the final blow.

We’ll keep you up to date on the suit as it proceeds. Hopefully, it’s over sooner rather than later, since Marvel isn’t showing any signs of slowing down their film development.


Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: Deadline

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  1. Where were they when this whole Marvel Movie Universe started with Iron Man? Sounds like someone has a wounded knee. I hate it when companies do this. I hope they lose just based on their timing. Pfft!

    • Or why didn’t they act before the movies came out?

      This company is purely after money. They would never have taken the risks and effort to make these movies anyway and now that someone else has done all the work for them, they want in on the $$.

      • A, get the facts and don’t just sit there talking out of your A. SLMI wsa in bankruptcy, put their by Stan lee!, and could not take any action. the law says the company, Stan Lee Medica, lacked standing to act on its own behalf. the company could not enter into any contract to hire an attorney among other things. While in bankruptcy they could not make any law suit on their own. This is done by the court’s trustee.

        Seek the truth, it will set you free.

  2. I know others have also stated this, but to be clear: Stan Lee Media is no longer affiliated with Stan Lee, in fact they sued Stan himself as well a number of years ago, I believe this is the follow up lawsuit.

    Stan deserves to be taken to task for a number of reasons, primarily taking credit for creations he had little or no part in, but in this situation it’s sad to see his name being dragged through the mud. SLM as far as I’ve understood is basically a bunch of losers, and right or wrong (and in my opinion they’re wrong) suing Disney is probably the mistake of their lives and they’ll get trounced for it.

  3. Valid point = 1.5 billion from Avengers (ENRON AND BP MADE MONEY TOO. SO DID DONALD TRUMP. WE ALL SEE THE VALUE IN THAT)
    Valid point = unanimously agreed on as the bast superhero move ever made, Avengers(WHO IS THIS THAT IS AGREEING? I SEE NO STUDIES SO YOU’RE JUST ASSUMING IT’S THE BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO TASTE IN FILM)
    Valid point = public demand for sequel after sequel for marvel movies . (A SEQUEL WAS ALREADY IN PLANS BEFORE THE MOVIE RELEASED. THE AVENGERS MOVIE HAS BEEN DEMANDED SINCE THE EARLY 2000′s AND EVEN IN THE LATE 90′S CONSIDERING IT’S ONE OF THE TOP LINEUPS OF COMICS FEATURING THE MOST POPULAR COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME! So of course it was in demand. There was demand for Star Wars ep.s 1-3. There is demand for more Clone Wars. There are groups out their still demanding an X-Men 4. Name alone means a lot more than most things when it comes to base success and with very little intelligence into how marketing works you’d know this, Stark. )

    So next point?

  4. Stan Lee Media has been suing people left and right for years and lost every case just as they will lose this one. Just look up their history on Wikipedia or do a google search. I don’t know why Screen Rant is giving this lawsuit any merit. It was already dismissed multiple times.

    The other issue is how Stan Lee can assign rights to creations he never owned in the first place. All the work Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did for Marvel was work for hire. Neither Lee or Kirby ever owed the rights to any of the characters they created for Marvel. Marvel had sole ownership.

    • They probably consider this a newsworthy story because it hasn’t been settled yet, and the company contains the name of the guy who is acknowledged as the face of Marvel comics, but you’re right, it’s just the latest in a long line of lawsuits that’s gonna get thrown out of court probably.

      Legally, it’s a good question how Stan obtained legal rights to his characters that he was able to sell to Marvel in (I think?) 1998. Stan’s uncle, Martin Goodman, was the original owner of Marvel Comics and that probably gave Stan more leverage than most comics folks when it came time to negotiate a contract in order to receive a portion of the millions of dollars that the characters he was associated with generated from movies, tv shows, and all kinds of associated merchandise.

      But from a moral point of view, those and many other characters would not exist without the people who created and wrote and drew them and they should be rewarded financially because they made lots of other people rich off their hard work and creative vision.

      • Also, on the face of it to the average person this news story looks like Stan Lee is suing Marvel Comics for compensation for characters he is closely associated with. So people are going to want to read about it, even though this case is pretty much a futile appeal.

        If you look up the guy who started the company with Stan it’s pretty funny. His name’s Peter Paul, and he’s got a long history of… well, he’s got a pretty entertainingly checkered past. Pretty sure he’s in jail at the moment so I can’t quite figure out if he’s got anything at all to do with this current case or not.

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  8. “Let me get this straight. You think that Disney, one of the richest companies in the world, is spending billions to create great films you believe you own, and who spend millions on lawyers? And your plan is to sue them? Good luck.”

    Emphasis added. Gotta love that Lucius. :-D

  9. I hope stan Lee could take over marvel studio and Disney too.

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