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DC Comics v. Powers

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
465 F. Supp. 843 (1978)


Facts

DC Comics (plaintiff) owned the Superman franchise. The “Daily Planet” was the name of a newspaper in the franchise that employed Superman’s alter ego. The franchise was created in 1938, and the Daily Planet first appeared in 1940. The Daily Planet became integral to the franchise. DC Comics licensed Superman for use with many different kinds of products. The franchise was generally licensed as a bundle, including all characters and other facets of the franchise. The Daily Planet was never explicitly included in a licensing agreement, but it was used on licensed products. Jerry Powers (defendant) owned Daily Planet, Inc., which was formed in 1969 as an underground news publication. The paper was published sporadically between 1969 and 1973. The paper replicated the Daily Planet logo from Superman and made many Superman references in its issues. The paper never gained national appeal and went out of business in 1973. Powers had obtained a trademark for the Daily Planet in 1970 but later let the trademark lapse. The trademark was cancelled in 1976. Neither party registered a trademark for Daily Planet thereafter. With DC Comics planning a Superman movie release, Powers planned to resuscitate his newspaper. DC Comics sued Powers for common-law trademark infringement. Powers admitted that he was aware of the Superman franchise’s use of the Daily Planet mark. DC Comics moved for a preliminary injunction.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Duffy, J.)

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