Three months after suing Walt Disney Co. in a dispute over royalties, Marvel Enterprises Inc. wants to strip the Magic Kingdom of its licensing deals for lucrative Marvel superheroes.
In a new lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, Marvel asked a judge to declare that Disney didn’t legally assume copyrights to Marvel characters when it bought the original licensee, Fox Family Worldwide, in 2001.
Marvel had long-standing agreements with Fox and other producers to make animated programming starring Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men and other superheroes for the cable network, Marvel attorney Carole Handler said.
Marvel sued Disney in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July, claiming that Disney’s ABC Family group of channels had shortchanged it by about $55 million on royalty payments for the “Spider-Man,” “Incredible Hulk” and “X-Men” animated series.
Handler said the federal lawsuit was spurred by research done for the earlier suit that showed that Marvel had never consented to Disney assuming the licensing pacts from Fox.
“As we got further into the analysis of the underlying agreements with respect to [the] first lawsuit, the more apparent it became that Disney never properly got the rights in the first place,” Handler said.
A Disney spokesman said the company had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.
Marvel executives said they became concerned after receiving 2002 profit participation statements accompanied by a form letter informing them that the series were not making money and were not expected to make money, the lawsuit said.
Both lawsuits say Disney has refused to open its books to Marvel accountants, concealed profit and failed to properly exploit the characters.