Many people in New Jersey are fans of Stan Lee’s work; the comic book characters the artist created, like Spider-Man and the Avengers, are loved by millions. However, at the end of his life, a battle began to arise over the rights to his vast swath of intellectual property. In September 2019, Lee’s daughter, through the Lee Family Survivors’ Trust, filed a lawsuit alleging that his creations had been “looted” by POW! Entertainment since 2001. The claim follows the death of the famed comic creator at 95 in November 2018.
Stan Lee had sued POW! for $1 billion before he passed away; he said that executives exploited his declining health to pressure him to sign agreements with them under false pretenses. He even claimed that the company forged his signature on some of their agreements. Lee argued that his intellectual property should not be transferred to a third party in Hong Kong and also aimed to reclaim his rights to the names and likenesses he originally created. However, the lawsuit was dropped before Lee’s death, and a statement was released in Lee’s name saying that he looked forward to putting the case behind him and working with POW! in the future.
Lee was the co-founder of POW! in the 1990s after he lost his job at Marvel during the difficult bankruptcy years of the comic book company. The case brought by Lee’s heirs aims to reassert some of the claims originally made by Lee against his erstwhile business partners, arguing that they induced him falsely to sign away his rights to a wide range of images, characters and ideas.
Intellectual property rights can be critical to business owners and creators in a wide range of industries and activities. An attorney may help them learn more about protecting themselves through copyright and trademark law.