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Just when the legal rumbling over Stan Lee‘s decision nearly a decade ago to leave Stan Lee Media Inc. for Marvel Entertainment seemed over, the dispute has been given new life. California federal judge Stephen Wilson is allowing the authorities now controlling SLMI to pursue a lawsuit against Lee for improperly transferring the intellectual property rights to many legendary comic book characters including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, Thor, and more.
On Monday, with Judge Wilson’s blessing, the plaintiff filed a new consolidated complaint that alleges that Lee assigned rights to these characters to SLMI in 1998 and then colluded to divert assets to his other companies, QED Productions and Pow! Entertainment, before they eventually wound up in Marvel’s hands as the result of a settlement.
The battle over Lee’s transfer of assets has thus far sparked numerous fights in both civil court and bankruptcy court, in California, Colorado and New York. Earlier this month, a New York judge dismissed an attempt by SLMI parties to intervene in an old $1 billion lawsuit brought by Lee against Marvel. The dispute looked done. It’s not. What’s different now?
Most of the prior litigation was spurred by aggrieved shareholders who had difficulty convincing judges they had proper standing to make claims.
But in October the Colorado Supreme Court denied Lee’s objections and approved the election of a new SLMI board of directors. Having gotten their house in order, SLMI hired new counsel, who petitioned Judge Wilson to lift his stay on proceedings there and allow final resolution of this long, confusing dispute. Stan Lee submitted his own motion to continue the stay, but it was denied on January 24th. The plaintiff has now just submitted a new consolidated 26-page complaint with numerous exhibits in one last major showdown with its former leader.
Marvel, and is corporate parent Disney, are not named defendants in the lawsuit.
SLMI is seeking unspecified punitive or exemplary damages, a declaration of SLMI’s rights, and an injunction against further infringement.
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