Stan Lee Media v. Walt Disney Company, No. 13-1407 (10th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Stan Lee Media claimed to own intellectual-property rights in a number of popular Marvel Enterprises comic-book characters. Its claims derived from a 1998 contractual agreement with Stan Lee, in which he transferred all of his ownership rights in characters he created while working at Marvel to Stan Lee Media in exchange for salary and other benefits. Stan Lee Media brought copyright infringement claims against Marvel Enterprises' corporate owner, The Walt Disney Company. Disney disputed whether Stan Lee Media had any interest whatever in the Marvel characters. The Ninth Circuit addressed the complex question of ownership in "Stan Lee Media, Inc. v. Lee," (2014 WL 5462400 (9th Cir. Oct. 29, 2014)), finding that Stan Lee Media could not even allege any right to ownership of the disputed properties. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the Ninth Circuit’s decision on the ownership issue was entitled to collateral-estoppel effect in subsequent cases involving claims for relief premised on that issue. Thus, because Stan Lee Media was precluded from alleging ownership of the at-issue intellectual properties, Stan Lee Media’s copyright-infringement claim failed here as a matter of law.