A Batmobile copyright battle becomes a victory for DC Comics after its crusade against duplicates. The comic book publisher’s copyright battle with a Temecula mechanic over knockoffs of Batman’s prized vehicle won’t go before the Supreme Court, according to The Consumerist.
On Monday, the high court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that said the Batmobile couldn’t be replicated without permission from DC Comics. The move by the Supreme Court immediately recognized the publisher as the copyright owner.
Mark Towle had been producing versions of Batman’s vehicle as it appeared in the 1966 Adam West television program and the 1989 Tim Burton-directed movie about the caped crusader. DC, part of Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. studio, sued Towle in 2011, claiming Batmobile copyright infringement.
In September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal said the car’s “bat-like” features and other characteristics — including its futuristic weaponry and technology — made it a character that was deemed to break the Batmobile copyright.
Applying this analytical framework to Gotham City’s mobile crime-fighter, the 9th Circuit concluded that “the Batmobile is a character that qualifies for copyright protection.”
First, the court held that the Batmobile has physical and conceptual qualities because it “has appeared graphically in comic books, and as a three-dimensional car in television series and motion pictures.” As such, the Batmobile is “not a mere literary character.” This also made the case for the Batmobile copyright.
Second, the court determined the Batmobile “is sufficiently delineated to be recognizable as the same character whenever it appears.” The court noted Judge Lew’s findings that the Batmobile has maintained distinct physical qualities. Indeed, since its initial appearance in comic books in 1941, the Batmobile has been a “highly-interactive vehicle, equipped with high-tech gadgets and weaponry used to aid Batman in fighting crime”; almost always has a “bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems”; is a “crime-fighting car with sleek and powerful characteristics that allow Batman to maneuver quickly while he fights villains”; and “always contains the most up-to-date weaponry and technology.”
Third, the court observed that the Batmobile is “especially distinctive,” in that it consistently is referred to as “the Batmobile” and consistently is portrayed as “Batman’s loyal bat-themed sidekick[.]”
While the 9th Circuit recognized the copyright in the Batmobile copyright protection for DC Comis, it also cautioned that “[n]ot every comic book, television or motion picture character is entitled to copyright protection.” Distilling wisdom from relevant cases, the 9th Circuit established the three-part test “for determining whether a character in a comic book, television program, or motion picture is entitled to copyright protection.”