Who owns the Silver Surfer? Daniel Best of the 20th Century Danny Boy blog points out a complication to your first answer:
In 1978 Marvel published The Silver Surfer, a graphic novel which contained a copyright legend naming not Marvel, but the book’s authors – Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
That factoid comes out related to the opening brief for Gary Friedrich, filed in response to Marvel’s earlier win in the lawsuit over Ghost Rider ownership, which has now been made public and shared by Best. In that brief, there’s also a telling piece about Marvel’s 1978 creator contracts, as Best points out:
As expected the appeal is relying on the ambiguity of the Marvel contracts, in particular the retro-active contracts that Marvel had their freelancers sign in 1978. If you believe Friedrich, those contracts were signed under some duress, with Friedrich stating in his deposition that, “I was given an agreement at that time by Sol Brodsky and told that if I wanted to continue to work for Marvel that I would have to sign it.” That claim of duress isn’t isolated to Gary Friedrich, other creators have said the same thing, some, such as Don McGregor, walked from Marvel instead of signing it back in the day, however for Friedrich it was a double blow – he signed the contract and stopped getting work at Marvel.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Lee/Kirby “ownership” of the Silver Surfer graphic novel or the bullying into contracts will become significant as Friedrich’s appeal play out legally. Certainly, they have the potential to become black eyes for Marvel in terms of public sentiment…