On March 7, 2016, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the Ninth’s Circuit’s decision declaring replicas of the Batmobile an infringement of DC Comics’ intellectual property.
In its decision, the Ninth Circuit rejected defendant Mark Towle’s claim that the Batmobile is merely a “useful article” and thus should not be afforded any protection under the 1976 Copyright Act. Instead, Judge Ikuta found that the Batmobile is a character entitled to copyright protection, rather than a useful article. Judge Ikuta based her decision on three factors. First, the Batmobile has “physical as well as conceptual qualities” due to its two-dimensional appearance in comics and three-dimensional appearances in movies and television shows. Second, the Batmobile has maintained such qualities to become “sufficiently delineated” and recognizable as the same character whenever it appears. Finally, the Batmobile is “especially distinctive and contains unique elements of expression.”
And just like that, a new DC Comics character is born.
Eriq Gardner, Supreme Court Won’t Hear Batmobile, Apple E-Books Disputes, The Hollywood Reporter (March 7, 2016, 7:32 AM), http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/supreme-court-wont-hear-batmobile-873092.
DC Comics v. Towle, 802 F.3d 1012, 1021 (9th Cir. 2015) cert. denied, No. 15-943, 2016 WL 361575 (U.S. Mar. 7, 2016).