17 July 2019CopyrightSaman Javed

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 poster did not infringe comic book, court rules

A US court has dismissed a claim by a pair of brothers who said Marvel had infringed their copyright in the creation of an “Iron Man 3” poster.

In a judgment on Monday July 15, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York found Marvel did not have access to the allegedly-infringed work, and that Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” poster was independently created.

The brothers, Ben and Ray Lai, who own comic book production company Horizon, created a character named ‘Caliban’ for their comic book series “Radix”, in 2001.

In connection with the comic, the brothers designed a drawing depicting Caliban in a mechanised suit of armour in a kneeling pose.

Horizon claimed Marvel infringed its copyright because Iron Man is also depicted in a mechanised suit in a kneeling pose in the “Iron Man 3” poster.

The brothers had alleged that six Marvel employees were aware of “Radix”, and that one of the employees saw the Caliban drawing at a comic book convention in 2001.

Later, in September 2002, this employee emailed the Lai brothers through an email address embedded in Horizon’s website, on which webpage a copy of the Caliban drawing was hosted.

Marvel had argued that there was no evidence that any of its employees had ever seen the Caliban drawing, nor is there any evidence that the employee present at the comic book convention shared the drawing with the creators of the “Iron Man 3” poster.

Horizon argued against this and said the Marvel employee must have seen the drawing because he or she accessed Horizon’s website to contact the brothers using the embedded email address.

But, the court said that regardless of whether the employee saw or saved a copy of the drawing, there was no evidence to show that the employee shared a copy of the drawing with the creators of the “Iron Man 3” poster.

“As a matter of fact, each of the witnesses who were involved in creating the ‘Iron Man 3’ poster denied ever seeing the Caliban drawing, And Horizon fails to present any evidence supporting a contrary conclusion,” the court ruled.

“To sum up, Horizon’s attempt to show a genuine dispute of fact as to access fails because Horizon does not introduce any “significant, affirmative and probative evidence,” it said.

Horizon had also argued that its Caliban drawing and the “Iron Man 3” poster were “strikingly similar”.

But, the court said there were enough differences between the two works to “foreclose a finding of striking similarity”.

The court said that in “contrast to Horizon’s virtually non-existent evidence of copying, Marvel has introduced unrebutted evidence showing its independent creation of the ‘Iron Man 3’ poster”.

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