Disney Defeats Stan Lee Media's Billion Dollar Lawsuit

A Colorado judge has put another stamp on the cursed history of Stan Lee Media.

The company founded by Stan Lee in the mid-90s has been waging war in courts around the country ever since it emerged from bankruptcy a decade ago without valuable franchises like Fantastic Four, X-Men and Spider-Man.

SLM has attempted to hold various parties responsible for that fate, including Lee, including Marvel, and last but not least, Disney.

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Last October, SLM filed a billion dollar lawsuit that alleged that Disney had committed copyright infringement on Lee's famous comic characters, "based upon Disney's independently actionable conduct which occurred after April 2009."

As we pointed out when the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiff figured to have a mountain ahead of them in getting beyond all the prior decisions in New York, California and Colorado courts that had gone against them.

Even though, SLM argued that this case was different than what came before, U.S. District Judge William Martinez disagrees.

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"Plaintiff has tried time and again to claim ownership of those copyrights; the litigation history arising out of the 1998 Agreement stretches over more than a decade and at least six courts," writes the judge in a ruling on Thursday. "Taking its cue from the Southern District of New York and the Central District of California, this Court holds that Plaintiff is precluded from re-litigating the issue of its ownership of copyrights based on the 1998 Agreement..."

The judge adds that SLM can't state a claim for copyright infringement, because such a claim first requires “ownership of a valid copyright," and the only thing it can rely upon to make that case is the '98 agreement it made with Lee that it believes conferred them valuable rights.

But since SLM needed to figure out something else to establish its ownership theory, the dispute is over. Again. The judge also says that allowing the plaintiff to amend their complaint would be "futile."

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner