David Fleischer in the American Lawyer: Marvel Must Face Claims over Ghost Rider Comic Hero


The plot has thickened in a copyright fight between the creator of the comic book character Ghost Rider and his former employer, Marvel Worldwide Inc.

Reversing a summary judgment win for Marvel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Tuesday that aging comic book writer Gary Friedrich can go to trial on claims that Marvel infringes his rights to the character. In a 3-0 opinion, the appeals court court held that U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest erred in finding that Friedrich transferred away his copyrights way back in 1978.

Friedrich was instrumental in helping Marvel's former parent company create Ghost Rider back in the early 1970s. For anyone who missed the 2007 film starring Nick Cage, Ghost Rider is a "motorcycle-riding superhero with supernatural powers and a flaming skull for a head," as Judge Denny Chin put it in Tuesday's ruling. In 1978, Friedrich signed over copyrights in the character to Marvel. He received no money from signing the agreement. He has, however, made a bit of side income over the years by showing up at comic book conventions and selling autographed prints of the character...

Judge Forrest granted summary judgment to Marvel in 2010, handing a defense win to David Fleischer of Haynes and Boone, LLP. According to Forrest, no reasonable juror could read the 1978 agreement and find that Friedrich retained any rights in the character. She also granted Marvel summary judgement on its counterclaim and awarded $17,000 in damages.

Excerpted from the American Lawyer, June 12, 2013. To view full article, click here.

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