For 75 years Batman has deftly defended Gotham City from the mass-murderous schemes of such villains as the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, Bane, and Poison Ivy. Now, the Dark Knight must tackle his most terrifying threat yet – an attack on his $11 billion merchandise empire. DC Comics is now battling La Liga’s Valencia C.F. over the latter’s attempt to trademark a new version of its bold bat-logo in Europe.
Valencia’s crest has been crowned by a bat since the club’s birth in 1919, twenty years before Bill Finger and Bob Kane (who were paid pennies) introduced the Caped Crusader in May 1939’s Detective Comics #27. Moreover, Valencia’s bat-logo comes from its home city’s coat of arms, which dates back to the medieval crown of Aragon.
The bat that adorns the city’s coat of arms more closely resembles Batman’s chest insignia than the football club’s proposed design. But, generally speaking, coats of arms can’t be trademarked. And modern intellectual property law dictates that trademark owners be vigilant in defending their brands, no matter how slight the chance of confusion may be. To that end, DC, which is owned by Warner Bros., has filed hundreds of “Batman”-related trademarks with the European Union’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.
As comical as the case may be, there’s nothing lawyers love more than a cash-generating precedent. If DC prevails in its argument could other football clubs come under attack from other superhero rights holders bearing similarly silly suits?
1. Manchester United’s Red Devil versus Hot Stuff the Little Devil
Manchester United has been bedeviling its rivals for decades, but the “Red Devils” nickname only dates to the days of Matt Busby in the 60s. Until the 70s, its official crest didn’t feature the imp at all; instead it used just the ship from the city’s coat of arms. The devil is truly in the details. Hot Stuff was created in 1957 by Warren Kremer but he’s no dated firebrand. Dreamsworks Animation is teaming up with the creators of “Bob’s Burgers” to develop a “Hot Stuff” movie. Could Dreamworks argue that Hot Stuff is a more famous devil than the one representing an anonymous mid-table side that doesn’t even play European football?
2. LA Galaxy’s Quasar versus Quasar
The LA Galaxy finally ditched their 90’s era look when David Beckham arrived, but the club logo’s four-pointed star arguably owes a debt to Marvel Comics’ Quasar, who enjoyed a goofy resurgence in that decade. Staring down the likes of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane is nothing for a Cosmic Avenger who has tussled with the likes of Ego the Living Planet, Annihilus, and Galactus.
3. West Ham United’s Hammer versus Thor’s Hammer
The mighty hammers of West Ham might not be a match for the mighty hammer of Thor. The club has played off heavy metal imagery since it was founded as Thames Ironworks FC in 1895, but Thor has been swinging his magical hammer named Mjölnir since time immemorial.
4. Portland Timbers’ Axe versus Bloodaxe
Portland, Oregon is the legendary locus of the lumbersexual movement, likewise the axe is central to the Timbers’ identity. Except Marvel Comics could force a rethink in the Rose City if it brings up Bloodaxe,whose deadly weapon once sent Thor’s ally Thunderstrike to Valhalla’s enteral rest.
5. Southampton’s Halo versus Angel’s Halo
If you know anything about the Uncanny X-Men’s Warren Worthington III it’s that he’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. But before his life turned dark he was an original student of Professor Charles Xavier who sported a halo on his duds as he soared through the air. Southampton have been known as the Saints since their days as the St. Mary’s Church squad in the late 19th century. But that could be little defense against avaricious lawyers repping the most lucrative comic franchise in the biz.
6. Portsmouth’s crescent moon versus Moon Knight
Southampton’s neighbors Portsmouth share a logo element with one of Marvel Comics’ lesser lights Moon Knight. Despite seven different chances at sustaining his own series since his 1975 debut, Moon Knight has never been a franchise property. Of course, that history pales in comparison to the city of Portsmouth’s, which traces its symbols to Richard the Lionheart’s return to England from the Byzantine Empire.
7. Brazil’s Portuguese Cross versus He-Man
Brazil is the greatest footballing country in the world, but He-Man is the Master of the Universe. But both wear a square Portuguese cross on their chests and He-Man is no stranger to litigation. Mattel has fended off claims that the character rips off Conan the Barbarian and ownership claims from the writer who invented the hero’s world; so challenging the use of the Military Order of Christ’s symbol, created in Portugal in 1318, shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
8. St. Pauli Supporters’ Skull and Bones versus Crossbones
St. Pauli may only be a second-division German side but it has millions of supporters worldwide who unite under its skull and bones flag to stand against racism, fascism, sexism, and homophobia. In that St. Pauli’s supporters share the same ideals as Captain America. They also share the same enemy, Crossbones, a killer merc whose terrifying threads strongly resemble the St. Pauli supporters’ flag.
9. The Rampant Lion of Aston Villa, Rangers, Scotland, and countless others versus Captain Britain
The heraldic rampant lion, used in England and Scotland since at least the 12th century, would be no match for rampaging lawyers pointing to Captain Britain’s puffy piece.
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