“Wow! The I.J.L.S.A. were the most heroic heroes ever!”

Boing-Boing – March 18, 2006:

Marvel Comics is continuing in its bid to steal the word “super-hero” from the public domain and put it in a lock-box to which it will control the key. Marvel and DC comics jointly filed a trademark on the word “super-hero.” They use this mark to legally harass indie comic companies that make competing comic books.

“Super-hero” isn’t Marvel’s property. They didn’t invent the term. They aren’t the only users of the term. It’s a public-domain word that belongs to all of us. Adding a ™ to super-hero is a naked bid to steal “super-hero” from us and claim it for their own.

  1. Mr. Fusion says:

    I can’t see this happening. M$ lost a similar case when it tried to trade mark the word Windows in a computer enviroment. Simply put, if the word(s) have been used in the public domain to represent a similar meaning then it can not be trade marked.

    Since this is most likely a harassment type of thing, Marvel / DC Comics should be forced to pay the Indie’s attorney’s fees.

  2. jasontheodd says:

    You mentioned it six times in this post alone, better lawyer up….

    Any way “super” isn’t actually a word, it is a prefix meaning “Above” or “greater than” and can be placed in front of nearly any word to alter it’s meaning thus. It only appeared in dictionaries after the pulp fiction days of the 20’s and 30’s made it common slang. Go ahead, go to your local library or used book store and find a hundred year old dictionary. Copyrighting a prefix. would be like copywriting th “un” in “Unrealistic” or the “non” in “Nonsense.”

  3. Milo says:

    “Copyrighting a prefix. would be like copywriting th “un” in “Unrealistic” or the “non” in “Nonsense.”

    Get my lawyer on the phone! I’m gonna’ be rich!

  4. Seventus says:

    This is on par with Donal Trump trying to trademark the phrase “You’re fired”. It’s just one more way that greedy companies can fill their pockets by limited what you can say without having to pay for it.

    We might not be able to say super-hero in public anymore, just like how you can’t sing Happy Birthday. O Time Warner, how we love thee.

  5. This goes back decades. Marvel and DC agreed to jointly hold the trademark back in the 70s, I think it was. And if you take a careful look at the comic book industry, you’ll see that “super-hero comics” ARE 90% Marvel and DC comics. . .

    I’m not defending the practice, but I’m long past getting exercised over it.

  6. Alex says:

    Can you say Super-Full-of-Shit?

    This is just greed, pure and simple. Since the management at places like Marvel and DC have no talents besides greed, they have to find other ways to make money besides actually publishing comics that are worth reading. Instead of treating their artists better and giving them reasons to stay in the company, they drive people like Todd McFarlane out. I call it the curse of the MBAs. These days all sort of creative companies are being run by MBAs who know nothing about the products they sell. These MBAs treat everything like interchangeable commodities and don’t love the company or understand the product. Since the management probably doesn’t like or even read comics, never mind understand them, they have to protect their investment by suing other publishers who use their “intellectual property.” I say screw them! Keep your super hero moniker and stick it! I don’t choose comic books on the basis of whether the main character is a hero, a super hero or a sooper dooper hero. What matters is the story, good compelling characters and great art. There are plenty of other publishers putting out good comics. This is nothing but the pathetic attempt of two companies on their slow painful dying spiral, desperately trying to slow their eventual demise. If Marvel and DC are to survive they won’t do it by suing, they have to make comics that are worth reading and collecting. Not the same old crap with a tired gimmick and four alternate covers.

  7. “What matters is the story, good compelling characters and great art.”

    Please don’t confuse that with Todd McFarlane.

    I wish the comics industry were run more like the novel industry where the creator creates something and the publisher acts as a publishing house, not copyright owner. But it just doesn’t work right now. There are exceptions to that, but it’s fairly rare. The economics just don’t work out. The audience is too small. Only the top couple of comics sell more than 100,000 copies a month (at $3 per), and the drop-off from there is STEEP.


  8. Tony says:

    Things like this make me even more furious at a system that even considers such a submission. We need competent trademark and copyright system that actually promotes creation of new products and services not hinders them.

  9. Mr. Fusion says:


    You are correct and I misspoke.

    Micro$oft v Lindows was settled without a court decision. The Judge in the case denied M$ a summary judgment and seriously questioned the validity of the M$ claim to own the trademark Windows. M$ had admitted in previous testimony that the word “window” had been in use since the earliest graphic user interfaces. As soon as the Judge denied the summary judgment, M$ settled the suit that THEY brought, for $24 million and the Lindows name.

    Although guessing how the Judge might have ruled in a trial, his rejection of the summary judgment and reservations about the trademark validity strongly suggests what the outcome would have been. The strongest issue against M$ was the pre-existing use of the word “Windows”. A bought decision doesn’t count I’m told.

    Now having said that, was there any pre-existing use of the words Super Hero? I seem to remember a restaurant selling a large sandwich which it called a Super Hero. I think that would be in the early or mid ’60s.

  10. Angel H. Wong says:

    They’re going to get through that.


    Ask the idiot who copyrighted the word “Virgin” and got away with it…


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