DC Comics v. Towle, No. 13-55484 (9th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
DC filed suit against defendant, producer of replicas of the Batmobile, alleging, among other things, causes of action for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition arising from defendant’s manufacture and sale of the Batmobile replicas. The court concluded that the Batmobile, as it appears in the comic books, television series, and motion picture, is entitled to copyright protection. The court also concluded that the Batmobile character is the property of DC and that defendant infringed upon DC’s property rights when he produced unauthorized derivative works of the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 television show and the 1989 motion picture. Finally, the district court did not err when it ruled as a matter of law that defendant could not assert a laches defense to DC's trademark infringement claim because defendant willfully infringed on DC's trademarks. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for DC on the copyright and trademark infringement claims.
Court Description: Copyright / Trademark. The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in a copyright and trademark infringement action brought by DC Comics against a maker of Batmobile replicas. The panel held that the Batmobile, as it appeared in the Batman comic books, television series, and motion picture, was entitled to copyright protection because this automotive character was a sufficiently distinctive element of the works. The panel held that DC Comics owned a copyright interest in the Batmobile character, as expressed in the 1966 television series and the 1989 motion picture, because it did not transfer its underlying rights to the character when it licensed rights to produce derivative works. The panel held that the defendant’s replica cars infringed on DC Comics’ copyrights. The panel affirmed the district court’s ruling that the defendant could not assert a laches defense to DC Comics’ trademark infringement claim because he willfully infringed DC’s trademarks. DC COMICS V. TOWLE 3