Though Batman has been fighting crime in comics, television, and movies since 1939, a trademark infringement case was filed last week against the superhero*. The city of Batman, Turkey brought this claim against Christopher Nolan, director of the current Batman film, as opposed to Batman’s creator Bob Kane, publisher DC Comics, or film franchisee Warner Bros.
According to Batman’s mayor, “The royalty of the name ‘Batman’ belongs to us … There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us.”
While this is most likely a struggling town taking advantage of ‘deep pockets’, they do have an interesting, though futile, argument. Since Batman (the superhero) has a worldwide trademark, residents of Batman (the city) are prohibited from using its name in their businesses in any country. So, when one resident opened his Batman restaurant, he was served with a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. and forced to change the name.
Unfortunately for the town, its claim is much too late. I found trademark registrations dating back to 1966 in the USPTO database. After the fifth year of registration, a Section 15 form is filed, giving the mark an incontestable status. This means the mark can no longer be canceled due to claims that it is confusingly similar to another.
US law does not protect those who sleep on their rights.
* The term ‘super hero’ is a trademark co-owned by DC comics and Marvel comics since 1967.