Canada may soon witness a true battle of superheros. On one hand, there exists a realtor in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada who calls himself a “Real Estate Superhero” under the name “Captain Vancouver.” He also has dressed for the part by donning a blue shirt that contains an “R”, instead of Superman’s trademarked “S”, emblazoned on a red and yellow shield. On the other hand, we have the Super Hero collective in DC Comics.
How did this realtor and collection of super heros come to be enemies? Apparently, DC Comics perceives Captain Vancouver as one superhero too many. Indeed, it believes the Real Estate Superhero’s costume to be too close to that worn by its beloved, “iconic,” and famous comic book, television, and film hero Superman. And so, DC Comics, which has held intellectual property rights to “all things” Superman for the past seven decades, sent a letter to the realtor alleging infringement of its intellectual property rights for using the word “superhero” and the R shield design. DC Comics also objected to images of Captain Vancouver ripping his Captain Vancouver colonial dress apart to reveal the Real Estate Superhero costume underneath.
How did DC Comics learn of Captain Vancouver’s apparent transgressions in the superhero world? Apparently, he filed an application to register “Real Estate Superhero” as a trademark. DC Comics owns the trademark for “Super Hero.” And such, the groundwork was laid for a battle of intellectual property might and rights.
CTV News Vancouver reports that, while the realtor “doesn’t feel he’s a real threat to the comic giant – or its trademarks,” he did agree to change the shield to into the shape of a house. Only time will tell if he too abandons his effort to trademark “Real Estate Superhero.”
Although some light has been made of this intellectual property dispute, it does raise some issues and presents lessons to be learned. An entity such as DC Comics with a volume of truly iconic characters and intellectual property must protect its rights. At the very minimum, it should be anticipated that it will do so. With an intense market for comic book merchandise – authentic and counterfeit, it understandably must be vigilant to ensure its rights remain strong and viable. Moreover, when a party files an application for a trademark that contains one of the iconic and valuable trademarks owned by such an entity, it really should come as no surprise that a demand letter would be received.
And, maybe, it was not a surprise. Captain Vancouver has probably obtained more value in the reporting of DC Comics’ efforts to protect its intellectual property rights than a mark to “Real Estate Superhero” would ever have obtained.
In all seriousness, a complete trademark search should be made for a proposed mark and each of its components (eg search “Real Estate Superhero” as well as “Superhero”, “Super Hero,” and “Real Estate”). Of course, “Real Estate” would be a generic or descriptive mark that should arguably not obtain trademark protection. But, the search should also be made for it. The search should be across all class of goods and services. In this way, a business may anticipate who would have objection with the proposed mark.
Mudd Law represents individuals and businesses in intellectual property matters including, but not limited to, those involving copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. It also provides representation to those in the comic and comic book industries. Mudd Law also supports the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and regularly attends Comic Con and other comic related conventions.