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Batmobile Copyright Lawsuit Could Be Racing to the Finish

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1960s Batmobile by Jennifer Graylock (cropped by FordFE com) via Wikimedia Commons

1960s Batmobile by Jennifer Graylock (cropped by FordFE com) via Wikimedia Commons

Holy lawsuit, Batman!

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Later this month, a judge is set to rule on whether a car builder who constructs replica Batmobiles is violating copyrights and trademarks of DC Comics.

The lawsuit originates from a 2011 complaint filed by DC Comics, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., against Mark Towle, owner of Gotham Garage in California. The company alleges that Towle’s Batmobile “unlicensed replica vehicle modification kits [are] based on vehicle design copyrights from plaintiff’s Batman property, including various iterations of the fictional automobile, the Batmobile.”

The character of Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939, but a car didn’t show up until 1941.

Still, Towle contends that the car that fans have come to associate with ‘Batmobile’ is actually ‘the 1966 car’ from the Batman television series, which, he alleges, is quite different from the comic book versions of the vehicle. George Barris is credited with designing the Batmobile we all know and love today from the base of a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept model bought for $1.

Another company called Fiberglass Freaks has also been constructing Batmobile replicas for nearly a decade — but with a license from DC Comics granted in 2010.

How much are these cars worth? Gotham Garage reportedly has sold two, one for $80,000 and the other for $90,000 — and one of the original, real Batmobiles is set to be auctioned off later this month. Barrett-Jackson Auction Company CEO Craig Jackson “wouldn’t be surprised if the car sold for multiple millions.”

Both DC Comics and Towle have filed for summary judgment in the case, and a judge will rule on the motions on January 30; at that point the case could be decided in favor of either party or move to trial.

What do you think of Gotham Garage’s custom Batmobiles? Intellectual property infringement or smart business venture?

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Written by

January 8th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Intellectual Property

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