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It’s been six years since 2013’s Iron Man 3 and for the bulk of that time, one of the MCU’s most debated films has had a legal cloud hanging over it, specifically, with regards to its poster. The poster for Iron Man 3 has been the subject of a copyright lawsuit originally filed by Horizon Comics Productions. Now that legal battle is over and like Tony Stark (with a huge assist from Pepper Potts) defeated Aldrich Killian, so too has Marvel emerged victorious.
After four years in court, on Monday a New York federal judge ruled in Marvel Entertainment’s favor in the case according to The Hollywood Reporter. Marvel Entertainment sufficiently convinced the judge that the poster for Iron Man 3 was an independent creation and there was no evidence of illicit copying, thereby winning the summary judgment victory.
Brothers Ben and Ray Lai’s Horizon Comic Productions originally filed the lawsuit in Massachusetts claiming copyright infringement and unfair business practices. The brothers created the comic book series Radix in 2001 featuring characters with mechanized armor. They alleged that Marvel hired them as comic book artists in 2002 and that their work had been copied for Iron Man 3.
You can see the Iron Man 3 poster in question and the character Caliban from Radix in the image below.
After an initial motion to dismiss by Marvel, the judge determined that the works shared at least some similarity, so that motion was denied. That led to discovery where Marvel Entertainment and Horizon Comics Productions looked into the similarities and creations of the two images.
Horizon’s argument that Marvel Entertainment copied its work was primarily founded on two tenets. One, that Radix was popular and garnered significant interest from those in the comic book industry, meaning it was visible. Two, that Ben Lai and Ray Lai had a relationship with Marvel employees and that multiple Marvel employees were aware of Radix.
Horizon also provided expert testimony on the similarities between the two works. The testimony discussed anatomical structures and camera views. Basically, these two images look similar. However, none of this was enough to convince U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken.
The judge acknowledged the comic book industry’s awareness of Radix and that some Marvel employees were aware of it. Nevertheless, the judge found no significant evidence that the Marvel employees aware of Radix actually saw the Caliban drawing in question, nor that those employees were involved in the Iron Man 3 poster design. The conclusion was that the notion that the employees that were aware of Radix both saw the Caliban drawing and were involved in the Iron Man 3 poster is speculation at best.
Ultimately, there were enough differences between the images, and while Marvel Entertainment provided substantial and unrebutted evidence that the Iron Man 3 poster was an original creation, Horizon provided virtually no evidence that it was copied. So after years dealing with the lawsuit, this case will not go to trial and Marvel has won.
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