Montreal-based comic book company Horizon Comics and its founders Ben and Raymond Lai are suing Disney and Marvel Entertainment, alleging in their suit that Marvel repeatedly stole designs their designs on multiple occasions in the Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Avengers films. The lawsuit alleges that the designs were used without consent or compensation to Horizon Comics and the Lais, with the plaintiffs seeking "to put an end to this deliberate and persistent infringement and to order the defendants to pay compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiff, in addition to Horizon's costs, including solicitor-client costs" per the suit (via CTV News).
The designs at issue come from the three-volume Radix series published by Image Comics from December 2001 to April 2002. Per the lawsuit, after the success of the Radix series, Marvel's now editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski sought to hire the Lai brothers to work as artists for Marvel based on the series, but they declined. Then, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) copied illustrations for a research grant for the Institute for Soldier Technology in 2002. MIT issued a public apology for using the illustrations without consent, but per the suit, after the incident, Marvel contacted the Lai brothers again and in 2002, they accepted, working on Thor and X-Men comics.
"We started Radix in 1995 with the goal of creating something unique. It was with Radix that we became known and recognized in the American comic book industry. We made a name for ourselves. It allowed us to work all over the place, including Marvel," the Lai brothers said in a statement.
The statement continued, "MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) copied one of the Radix characters in 2002 to get a $50 million grant, we decided not to sue because they publicly apologized and acknowledged their mistake. But with Marvel, it's repeat infringement. After years of litigation in the U.S. and substantial sums, they continue to copy our characters. It's causing us significant damage and impacting our ability to make a living as artists. It is clear that we cannot accept this repeated behavior. The only way to make things right was to file these proceedings."
As for the designs that Horizon Comics and the Lai brothers allege Marvel stole, specifically mentioned are the Iron Man 3 costume which the lawsuit claims is "strikingly similar to the suit worn by a Caliban, one of the characters portrayed in Horizon's Works Radix 1." It's worth noting that Horizon Comics filed suit against Marvel in 2013 which was partially dismissed, but allowed to proceed concerning the movie's poster design. However, Marvel won that suit in 2019 with U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken finding there was "virtually no evidence in the record" to indicate that those involved in the Iron Man 3 poster design would have seen the Caliban drawing.
In this new Canadian lawsuit, Horizon argues that Marvel has continued to infringe upon their designs, specifically with Iron Man's appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, and also claims infringement between Ant-Man and the Wasp character designs and that of a military character in Horizon's Radix 2.
"Neither Horizon or the Lai brothers have provided any form of consent, explicit or implied, for the reproduction of their Works," the lawsuit reads. "To the contrary, Horizon previously instituted a full legal action in the United States to enforce its rights in part of the Works. After this first legal claim, Marvel infringed on Horizon's copyright in an even more egregious manner."
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