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Trademark Bullies: Marvel and DC Comics

Written by Manpreet Taak, a pupil at Cantell School on 06 July 2018

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A trade mark is a brand name or other mark of trade origin. Trade marks are best protected by registration. This gives the owner of the trade mark statutory rights under the Trade Marks Act 1994.

Two of the largest comic book publishers (Marvels and DC Comics) are believed by many to be Trademark bullies, disallowing any other comic publishers or writers to include the word superhero on the cover.

Regardless of their rivalry, in 1979 the two comic book publishers jointly-registered a trademark, in order to prevent legal disputes, and also to reduce the cost of the trademark. The company registered this trademark as they believed it would be misleading if any other company published a comic with the word superhero, and customers purchased products, which they believed to either be DC Comics or Marvel Comics. DC AND Marvel believed this could potential effect the reliability and reputation, as a consequence causing a decrease in sales revenue.

In 2014, a British writer (Graham Jules) was contacted by DC and Marvels claiming that the writer had infringed the trade mark registered for the word “Superhero” going against Trade Marks Act 1994. The book was titled “Business Zero to Superhero”; regardless of the context and nature of the book, DC and Marvel were persistent with Graham not being allowed to use the word superhero.

However, the multi-billion-dollar companies, concluded subsequently later (two and a half years) appeasing, and enabling Graham’s book to remain the same.

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