Our San Diego probate court hears litigation arising out of probate and trust disputes but nothing like the billions of dollars which are at stake in a probate court dispute over comic book characters. You’ve no doubt heard of such comic book icons are Iron-Man, X-Man, Spider Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. They were created by comic book artist Jack Kirby who was responsible for 45 of Marvel Entertainnent’s most popular characters.There has been an ongoing attempt by the estate of comic book artist Jack Kirby to terminate a copyright grant over his work. The children of Kirby, after his death, sent notices to terminate the copyrights. Marvel Entertainment then sued the estate in New York District Court alleging that the creation of such comic book characters were “works-made-for-hire and not eligible for termination.
Last week the Judge found in favor of the estate on an important issue which could mean she will issue a future ruling favoring the estate. There is a chance that an unfavorable ruing against Marvel could cost them control over the characters. Marvel was successful on another issue however, in avoiding an accounting on how much money is involved, at least until the issue is decided as to whether the Kirby children can terminate the copyrights.
Interestingly, the impact of the judge’s ruling will also impact Disney, since Disney purchased Marvel for $4 billion last year.