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.