Trademark Law

Law student prevails against Marvel and DC Comics over use of word 'superhero' in book title

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Flying superhero

A British businessman who is also a law student got some real-world legal experience over the last few years when the title of his self-help book, Business Zero to Superhero, caught the attention of major comic-book publishers.

Although competitors in the publishing world, Marvel Comics and DC Comics band together to protect their respective brands in famed costumed characters such as Superman and Spider-Man as far as the use of the word “superhero” is concerned, reports the Guardian. In 1979, the companies filed for a joint trademark over the word “superhero.”

Graham Jules learned this in 2014 when he received a cease-and-desist letter over the planned publication of his book. Jules is the operator of a business that helps set up so-called pop-up shops (temporary retail outlets typically used for seasonal sales), and he wrote the book to provide advice about succeeding in business without capital.

The 48-year-old Jules fought back on his own over the trademark claim, simply relying on a textbook about intellectual property law, the newspaper recounts. He argued that the word had entered the common lexicon, and that the trademark was invalid.

The tide began to turn when Jules was offered a small settlement to change the title of his book, he said. Then, as a hearing loomed at the Intellectual Property Office in London, the industry leaders folded and gave up the legal battle.

“I haven’t got the cape but it is a good feeling to win over such a large company,” Jules told the Mirror, adding: “I was on the verge of scrapping the book, so this is an amazing result.”

The Mirror’s article includes a comment from DC and Marvel that the companies dropped the suit for “commercial reasons.”

“I can’t believe I have defeated the X-men, Spider-Man, and Iron Man all by myself,” Jules told the Mirror. “It shows that even the little guy can achieve something with determination.”

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