6:29am PT by Eriq Gardner
Stan Lee's Daughter Sanctioned for Bringing Frivolous Suit to Reclaim Superhero Rights
"Stan Lee, a superhero in his own right, served to inspire the everyday hero. The Court urges parties to treat his legacy with respect and cease engaging in meritless litigation."
That quote comes from the conclusion of U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright's scathing order on Thursday dismissing a suit brought by J.C. Lee.
Last September, nearly a year after the comic book genius died at the age of 95, his daughter brought a suit attempting to reclaim much of her father's intellectual property. The complaint focused on the period of Stan Lee's life starting in the mid-'90s when he separated from Marvel and, during the height of the dot com boom, started a production and marketing company and assigned it intellectual property. A few years later, that entity — Stan Lee Media Inc. — filed bankruptcy, and Lee moved on to POW! Entertainment and, eventually, a reunion with Marvel.
J.C. Lee alleged some of the turn-of-the-century dealmaking was shady and that some of the assets were taken wrongfully from SLMI. She also alleged that POW! took advantage of her father during the later years of his life.
Judge Wright has seen enough. He says the validity of Stan Lee's 1998 agreement assigning rights to SLMI has already been contested repeatedly, and that courts have already reached a conclusion about invalidity and proper termination of such contract. Like SLMI's board and shareholders, J.C. Lee comes up on the losing end.
But it doesn't stop there because the judge points to how J.C. Lee concedes she has "joined forces" with SLMI before agreeing with defendants that her complaint was a frivolous one. "The Court finds it completely unreasonable to file a suit premised on an issue debated and analyzed in more than five federal district courts over the last decade," states the opinion.
Lee is punished to the tune of $1 million, which will also cost her attorneys led by lead counsel Jonathan Freund. The judge finds them severally liable for $250,000 of the amount after basically rejecting the notion they believed this case had strong merit.
Reacting to the development, POW!’s president Gill Champion said, "We feel vindicated by the Court’s decision today," adding, "We are happy to finally put this ugly litigation behind us and move on to preserving the legacy of this great man and developing the large inventory of intellectual property he left behind. POW!’s commitment to honor and preserve Stan Lee’s legacy has not and will not waver.”