Best of 2006: “They’re stealing the language!”
First published March 20, 2006.
“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 ™ super-hero is a naked bid to steal “super-hero” from us and claim it for their own.
That’s right: According to this story, DC and Marvel — the only two companies that financially could fight over this with the other of them — are “jointly” claiming rights in the term SUPER-HERO. “Adding ™ to super-hero is a naked bid to steal “super-hero” from us and claim it for their own. . . . ,” continues BB, concluding:
Here’s a proposal: from now on, let’s never use the term “super-hero” to describe a Marvel character. Let’s call them “underwear perverts” — as Warren Ellis is wont to — or vigilantes, or mutants. Let’s reserve the term “super-hero” exclusively to describe the heroes of comics published by companies that aren’t crooked word-thieves.
(Via Slashdot.) Well, that’s one approach. Here’s another one: I’ll represent pro bono any company harassed by this claim, if you can get me to where you are as necessary (and provide local counsel if needed).
By the way: They each have a registered trademark incorporating the term SUPER-HERO: MARVEL SUPER-HEROES and LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, respectively. Does that mean they both have the trademark SUPER HERO? Actually — it means the exact opposite! In fact, if these two “competing” companies are trying to establish some sort of joint right in this term, it could be that rare case of trademark misuse so often pleaded and so never found by the courts…
Please, let me be your Lex Luthor, your Dr. Octopus! I eat kryptonite for breakfast!
UPDATE: LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® got a call from a reporter — from a pretty respectable outfit — who was considering doing a story on this. But though LOC is always good for a sound bite (they call me the “human pull quote”) she couldn’t get comments from an of the principals, even the victimized comic book publisher. (Update: Interview on NPR can be found here.) That leads me to believe a settlement could be in the offing, which makes perfect sense. DC and Marvel do not want this tested in court.