The Supreme Court Just Made a Ruling Full of Spider-Man Jokes

Illustration for article titled The Supreme Court Just Made a Ruling Full of Spider-Man Jokes

The Supreme Court settled a long-running patent case titled Kimble V. Marvel Entertainment. It was basically about patent holders and licensing fees, which isn’t that fun, but Justice Elena Kagan wrote the court’s opinion on the case, which was fun — mainly because she filled it with Spider-Man jokes.

Kagan, a self-avowed “avid comic book fan” managed to slip in lyrics from the 1970s Spider-Man cartoon theme song in the court’s written opinion, as well as the classic line “with great power comes great responsibility” — referring specifically to the court’s power to overturn legal precedent, and their responsibility not to do so without a compelling reason. In this case, Stephen Kimble — who created the mechanism that Marvel used to create the super-popular Web Shooter toys, which were gloves that fired silly string — wasn’t able to convince the court that he was owed royalties by Marvel after his patent expired.

You can read Justice Kagan’s full opinion here — if you’re into that sort of thing — but here’s the money quote:

What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: “SpiderMan,” p. 13 (1962) (“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility”).


[Via Vox]

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My response to the same threat on Observationdeck:

The issue is patents. In Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29 (1964), the Supreme Court held that patent holders cannot charge royalties beyond the life of their patent - which is 20 years.

Here, Mr. Kimble filed a patent in 1990 for his web slinger toy, and Marvel bought the patent for about $500,000 plus 3% royalties. The contract between Kimble and Marvel did not have a sunset date on the payment of 3% royalties.

Marvel later petitioned the court for a declaratory judgment in federal court confirming that it did not have to pay royalties beyond the life of the patent - which expired in 2010. The federal court ruled in Marvel’s favor, and held that the rule in Brulotte applied in this case. Kimble appealed, and here we are.

The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, in essence again holding that a patent holder could not charge royalties beyond the life of the patent.

If we don’t like it, we can petition Congress to do something about it (AHAHAHAHAHAH). But seriously. That’s the court’s recommendation.

Source: Am lawyer.