Stan Lee Triumphs Over Stan Lee Media in California Court
A decade-long battle between the comic book genius and the company he left in ruin appears to be nearing the finish line as a California judge throws out another lawsuit.
On Monday, U.S. federal judge Stephen Wilson dismissed a five-year-old lawsuit brought by Stan Lee Media Inc. against its founder that alleged Stan Lee colluded to divert SLMI's assets to his other companies, QED Prods and Pow! Entertainment. The decision marks the latest blow to SLMI's claims that Lee robbed the company of many of his creations, including Fantastic Four, X-Men and Spider-Man, and barring any stunning appelllate intervention, appears to all but end a decade worth of litigation that that took place in courts in New York, Colorado, and California.
SLMI was formed at the height of the dot com boom in 1998 when comic book legend Lee had a falling out with Marvel. The new company was to be a Web-based production and marketing company that controlled his intellectual property. Unfortunately, SLMI went bankrupt in 2001.
Lee then formed QED and Pow!, and he proceeded to sue Marvel for reneging on his employment contract. A settlement was reached, with Marvel regaining control over Lee's properties. Meanwhile, many of SLMI's shareholders were irate that Lee had left the company that bares his name and somehow managed to extradite IP assets out of the bankruptcy process.
Much litigation followed, including a 2007 lawsuit in California.
In California, Judge Wilson stayed the case for several years, but after a Colorado Supreme Court approved the election of a new SLMI board of directors and two judges in New York denied SLMI's attempts to pursue claims, Wilson agreed to entertain a new consolidated complaint against Lee.
But it's not to be.
Just like a New York judge who had previously chosen not to open up new proceedings, citing ten years of tiring litigation, a California judge has followed suit.
Judge Wilson hasn't issued a written order yet, but according to Ira Matetsky, an attorney for Lee, the judge has dismissed the lawsuit because "res judicata" -- the matter had already been judged.
Once the judge issues his written order, SLMI's lawyers will have 30 days to make an appeal, and given their history, they probably will. For example, SLMI is currently in the midst of an appeal over dismissal of an attempt to reclaim ownership over rights to "Conan the Barbarian." SLMI's attorneys didn't respond to a request for comment on the latest development, but company reps had previously acknowledged that much of the remaining hopes for punishing Lee for his alleged asset diversion had been resting on Judge Wilson allowing the lawsuit to go forward to trial. On Monday, like the boy who dreams of one day becoming Spider-Man, those hopes were dashed.