US Supreme Court Kapows Batmobile Replica Maker’s Copyright Case

A Los Angeles-based maker of replicas of the iconic Batmobile got another sucker punch in a long, drawn-out legal case earlier this month – an update to a story E3 Spark Plugs first brought you last year. The ongoing battle is over whether Gotham Garage owner Mark Towle violated copyright when he built and sold replicas of the car as it appeared in the 1966 television show featuring Adam West as Batman and the 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton, racking up about $90,000 for each.

DC Comics promptly filed suit and last year, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the company, finding that the Batmobile is entitled to copyright protection of the Batmobile. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court agreed, letting stand the lower court ruling that said the Batmobile's bat-like appearance and high-tech gadgets make it a character that can't be duplicated without DC Comics’ permission.

Towle’s attorneys told the Supreme court that the appellate decision "impermissibly extended to an inanimate object the copyright protection that is afforded to ‘characters,’ by holding that an automobile, which does not display any personality traits or consistent and widely identifiable physical attributes independent of the context in which it appears in a creative work, is entitled to separate copyright protection."

But the court disagreed, upholding the appeals court’s decision that the Batmobile is copyright protected because it’s not solely a literary character, but has "maintained distinct physical and conceptual qualities since its first appearance in the comic books in 1941.”

Unfortunately, this means that your chances of driving home a legit Batmobile replica are slim to none. What do you think? Should Gotham Garage be allowed to continue its replica making or has the legal system done right by DC Comics? Post your thoughts on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.


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