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Lawsuit Over Iron Man 3 Poster Ends with Settlement

— July 22, 2019

A lawsuit between Marvel Entertainment and Horizon Comics Productions over an Iron Man 3 poster settled earlier this week.

A copyright lawsuit over an Iron Man 3 poster recently settled, ending a four year legal battle between Marvel Entertainment and Horizon Comics Productions. The victor in the battle was the Disney subsidiary, Marvel Entertainment.

Iron Man suit Mark VI from Iron Man 2 at a Convention
Iron Man suit Mark VI from Iron Man 2 at a Convention; image courtesy of Chris Favero via WIkimedia Commons,

The lawsuit was first filed more than four years ago by Horizon Comics Productions, which is operated by brothers Ben and Ray Lai. According to the suit, which was first filed in Massachusetts, the brothers “created a character named Caliban for their comic book series called Radix and alleged that they had had been hired by Marvel back in 2002 as artists working on various comic book franchises, including Thor.” According to the suit, a particular drawing of the character greatly resembled an Iron Man 3 poster created by Marvel Entertainment.

Eventually, jurisdiction issues moved the lawsuit to New York, and in March of 2017, the brothers were able to “get past a motion to dismiss upon the judge’s conclusion that the works at least shared a similarity in their total concept or feel.” For the next couple years, both parties spent time comparing the similarity between the Iron Man 3 poster and work from Horizon Comics Production until U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken issued his ruling. Prior to handing down his ruling, the judge noted “Horizon’s evidence that Radix gathered substantial interest in the comic book industry when it came out and that at least a half dozen current Marvel employees were aware of the comic book.”

However, in his ruling, the judge stated that while the brother “may have enjoyed some sort of relationship with Marvel employees…there is virtually no evidence in the record that shows any one of these individuals either would have seen the Caliban Drawing or would have been involved in the Iron Man 3 Poster design, let alone both. Horizon’s arguments that these individuals could provide an access nexus is founded on nothing more than speculation.” He added, “just because Radix might have been popular doesn’t mean the Caliban Drawing was widely disseminated.”

Even if Horizon wanted to continue the case to trial, it would have had to “show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works.” During the litigation process, Horizon relied on an expert report that discussed the “anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views” and argued the works in question were very similar. In response, Oetken said that while the “expert report is equivocating on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing…there remain enough differences between the two works.” His ruling concluded by saying, “in contrast to Horizon’s virtually non-existent evidence of copying, Marvel has introduced unrebutted evidence showing its independent creation of the Iron Man 3 Poster.”


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