According to the Hollywood Reporter, Mark Towle recently petitioned the Supreme Court following an unfavorable decision from the 9th Circuit regarding his dispute with DC Comics. The dispute involves the iconic crime-fighting vehicle, the “Batmobile,” from the 1960s TV Show and 1989 movie, “Batman.” Until he was sued and enjoined, Towle, a mechanic from California, made and sold replicas of the Batmobile for $90,000 each. DC Comics alleged that the Batmobile is copyrightable, and the cars are substantially similar to the original automobile. Before the 9th Circuit, Towle argued that the useful objects doctrine, part and parcel to the idea-expression distinction, precludes the car from copyright protection. The useful objects doctrine is often effectively deployed to prevent fashion and clothing items from receiving protection.
The 9th Circuit disagreed with Towle’s argument, finding that the Batmobile constituted a “character” that was “sufficiently delineated,” such that it constituted original expression. It will be interesting to see whether the case is picked up, but in the meantime you can read Towle’s entire petition here.
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