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September 1, 2009
The Cartel Swallows Marvel - IP Contention Ensues
The geek news sources have been abuzz the past few days with the news that Disney acquired Marvel. The mainstream press is focused on the financials
, of course, but I couldn't help but think about the implications of trying to find and corral all the Copyfight-related interests at play here. Marvel of course was first known for comic books but as its characters gained popularity a huge variety of other interests spun off.
I imagine many readers have seen the movies (the success of which I think were a prime motivator in the acquisition) but there are also numerous TV shows featuring the licensed characters as well as more merchandise than you can imagine. Everything from cheap T shirts and Halloween costumes to mega-million theme park rides can be found with the Marvel logo somewhere And all of those items were produced by companies other than Marvel itself, under a variety of licensing schemes, many of which overlap in one character. The company that makes the Spider Man movies is not the same one that makes the Spider Man pajamas my kids love so much. Each has some variety of licensing rights that it now will have to (re)negotiate with the Disney empire.
Marv Wolfman has an excellent post raising a number of intellectual property and competition issues. He notes that some of the existing Marvel deals are with companies like Universal and Sony, which directly compete with Disney in areas such as movies and theme parks. And as Patrick Goldstein points out in the LA Times story, Disney is a manufacturing empire with "merchandising assembly lines" that will likely bring it into cooperation or competition with a wide array of former Marvel licensees.
(props to nerdcore.de for the Mickey/Wolverine mash-up image.)
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