Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston talks to Bob Burden, creator of Mysterymen about Marvel Comics’ new series Mystery Men and their trademarking the name – despite his having used the one word version since 1987:
Nothing good will come of it. I don’t think this kind, clipping indie titles for trademarks, will open the world like an oyster for them. There are probably lots of titles and characters out there that have lapsed, and I’m sure there are a lot that were never officially trademarked at all… What Mike [Richardson, president of Dark Horse, Burden's publisher] explained to me – and this is important for everyone – is that while copyrights last many years, Trademarks last only ten. Well, I think Universal [The studio that made the Mystery Men movie adapting Burden's comic back in 1999] filed for the trademark August 5th 1999, the day before the movie came out. The Marvel trademark was filed August 5th 2009. That could even mean that someone was sitting there ready to snipe it. So who knows what else they have their eye on, or what they’re going for next.
At the end of the story, Marvel appears to dispute this:
Marvel representatives tell me that there was no intention to “snipe” a trademark and that the timing was purely coincidental. That the writer, David Liss, asked if the name was available, and it was. And that the whole series was completed before the name was publically announced.
Nonetheless, a simple search of the US Patent and Trademark Office’s site shows that, yes, Marvel trademarked “Mystery Men” on August 5th, 2009. So was Liss working on the book two years ago? And did Marvel really manage to check that the title was available legally, approve the title editorially and apply for the trademark on the same day, never mind it being the same day that the trademark actually became available? Because, while that’s not impossible, it’s certainly an astounding coincidence. In a schaudenfreude-filled way, I look forward to the inevitable lawsuit…