British businessman wins legal battle with Marvel & DC over the right to use the word ‘superhero’ in the title of his book
A lone British businessman has beaten Batman, Superman and Spiderman over the legal right to use the word ‘superhero’ in the title of his book.
Graham Jules was about to publish his self-help manual ‘Business Zero to Superhero’ in 2014 when he got a letter from Marvel and DC Comics claiming the word infringed their jointly-owned trademark.
But modest Graham fought back and even rejected an offer of ‘a couple of thousand’ to change his book title.
And after a two-and-a-half-year wrangle the multi-billion dollar enterprises have backed down and admitted defeat with the North London entrepreneur.
Four days before a planned hearing at the Intellectual Property Office in London they have dropped the case against their British foe ‘for commercial reasons’.
Graham, 48, who runs a firm setting up pop-up shops – and is also studying law – can keep the title of his book and finally publish it.
He compiled his entire case without legal aid using a single textbook about intellectual property law – while his giant adversaries armed themselves with the finest legal minds.
Graham he estimates he spent a total of just £200 – the cost of registering to fight the claim – plus 200 hours in writing letters.
He said: “I was in the process of writing a book for entrepreneurs and as part of that process I applied to trademark the title.
“I received a letter from Marvel and DC’s solicitors stating that they opposed the title.
“I found out that they had held the trademark for ‘superheroes’ and from that moment on the battle ensued.
“I was on the verge of scrapping the book and at the beginning I felt helpless and scared.
“But this is an amazing result. It shows that even the little guy can achieve something with determination.”
New York-based Marvel and DC Comics, of California, jointly trademarked the word ‘superhero’ in 1979 in a bid to stop others from using it.
The two companies, which are usually fierce rivals, have since been accused of picking on small businesses who include the term in their branding.
Graham, from Wood Green, said he was also fighting a wider battle on behalf of others.
He argued that the ‘superhero’ word has become part of everyday language and should be free for all to use.
He added: “I realised that many other small publishers had had the same experience as myself with Marvel and DC.
“It seemed unfair to me that they have a monopoly on the word. But I didn’t have the resources to get full legal representation so I represented myself.
“At first, there was a negotiations stage where they offered to pay me a couple of thousand pounds to change the title of the book.
“I had spent a lot of time and effort putting it together so it wasn’t very appealing to go back to square one and I thought it was a good title.
“Then it went to the statement stage, where we each put forward our evidence, and then the final hearing was supposed to take place last Thursday.
“I had some kind of indication that I was heading in the right direction but I never expected to get the trademark.
“I’m a big fan of superheroes and everyone knows Marvel and DC’s characters because they’re brilliant.
“But there are many other new authors out there who also have good ideas and it’s a shame they can’t utilise that word themselves.
“I haven’t got the cape but it is a good feeling to win over such a large company.
“I can’t believe I have defeated the X-men, Spider-man, and Iron Man all by myself.”
Marvel and DC Comics have both been contacted for a response, as have their London legal firm, Jenkins.
DC Comics refused to comment on the defeat while Marvel have yet to respond.