Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Entertainment Theatre Group

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 10-30-2014
  • Case #: 13–5570
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153940
  • Westlaw Citation: 2014 WL 5483487
  • Full Text Opinion

A prior decision barring a claim to copyright ownership precludes a defendant in a later case from making a claim of ownership as an affirmative defense.

Opinion(SCHMEHL): Plaintiff Disney Enterprises, Inc. (Disney), sued defendant Entertainment Theatre Group (ETG) for using copyrighted material in a stage show that included characters, songs, and images associated with Spider-Man. In response, ETG was given a retroactive license to use the Spider-Man copyright by Stan Lee Media, Inc. (SLMI). SLMI has been involved in several lawsuits regarding it's claims to the Spider-Man copyright. Of particular note, a 2010 opinion dismissed SLMI's claim to Spider-Man because the copyright claim was time-barred by the statute of limitations. In the present case, SLMI attempted to intervene as a third party and assert SLMI's copyright claims as an affirmative defense. The court found such a maneuver "would most definitely go beyond a defensive assertion and provide SLMI with the affirmative relief it has been seeking unsuccessfully all these years." The defense would effectively allow SLMI to use the Spider-Man property, knowing that it is immune from infringement claims. As such, the Court held that the prior decisions holding that SLMI does not own Spider-Man preclude SLMI from using such claims as an affirmative defense. The Disney's motion is GRANTED, DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE ETG's amended counterclaims and SLMI's intervener complaint.

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