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Friday, April 26, 2013 

Can the word "superhero" really be trademarked?

The comics writer Ray Felix has gone to court because of Marvel and DC's opposition to an independent writer's use of the word "superhero", which the owners of the big two think belongs only to them:
Ray Felix grew up idolizing Spider-Man, Batman and other stars of Marvel and DC Comics. But when he created his own superheroes, the companies he once loved became his archenemies.

Felix' battle with the comic conglomerates began after he registered his online comic series "A World Without Superheroes" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Marvel and DC opposed the move on the grounds that the companies own the trademark on the word "superhero." Almost two years later, the case is still awaiting a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board.

"They're holding the word 'superhero' hostage," said Felix, a Bronx resident. "It's an infringement on our First Amendment rights."

Felix, 38, is one of at least 35 people Marvel and DC have prevented from using the S-word in the last decade.
That explains why not many fantasy-themed comics have appeared since using the word - legally, it could be exceedingly hard, because the fools now running the big two are damaging their reputations further by monopolizing it. It's downright ludicrous. Over the years, Marvel sued DC to prevent them from using the word "mutant" in their publications and probably vice versa to keep the other side from using "metahuman" in theirs. It's absurd, and harms their image in the eyes of anybody inspired by Marvel/DC heroes to create their own. As if it weren't bad enough that they both shut their doors to all but a select few scriptwriters today. Why should anyone's use of a particular word in a medium like this spell trouble - financial or otherwise - for any company?

This is another serious error being made by the comics medium's major publishers, one they need to quit doing. No wonder they're losing so much respect from the audience.

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It's very rare for competitors to co-own a trademark or copyright in the first place. And the term "super hero" is hard to define. And I don't see how DC and/or Marvel can claim to be a sole source for the "product." Stories about heroes, including those with super powers, predate comic books.

Yeah, I think Marvel and DC are being stupid, here. And Anonymous is right stories about superpowered heroes predate comic books... our ancient ancestors told stories about Hercules and Gilgamesh and the like, to name just two examples. I've heard that Marvel is not allowed to use metahuman and DC not allowed to use mutant, which is lame.

I wonder if Image, IDW, Top Cow and other companies that publish superhero comics have ever had to face this.

I know some companies use the term "posthuman" to describe superhumans.

idk if anyone will respond to this new message as of right now this thread is several years old. I'm currently writing this 6/9/17 at 1:05 am in case you were wondering. I am currently trying to write a book about superheroes aliens and the like and would like to know the legality behind using words such as superhero mutant and metahuman. If I can't use the latter two i understand, (am annoyed but I get it) my real question is is there still legal issues surrounding the use of the word superhero?

Hello, I think when writing a history book about entertainment products like these, it's easier to use the words in question without any serious legal hassles. That said, it's certainly regrettable that the Big Two have gotten so greedy and self-indulgent they try to make it difficult for anybody who likes the superhero genre to use the precise words when writing a sci-fi comic, and one more reason why they've fallen so far in terms of sales.

So its still true then? even in 2017 we can't use words like superhero, mutant, or metahuman in our own fictional works? what words are still up for grabs??? like what can we call the characters in our own sci fi comics that would be most easily described by trademarked words?

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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