The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of DC Comics on Wednesday, in a case that reaffirms the company's claim to copyright of the Batmobile.
DC's rights were challenged by Mark Towle, a California mechanic who was sued in 2011 for selling replicas of the Batmobile as it appeared in the Batman TV series from the 1960s and the 1989 Batman film. Towle sold the replica for $90,000 each, and claimed that he Batmobile was a "useful article" – a legal term for an object of no artistic value.
The court disagreed, calling the Batmobile an "automotive character," and quoting the "Caped Crusader" himself in the issued opinion:
"As Batman so sagely told Robin, 'In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential,'" states the opinion, written by Sandra Ikuta. "Here, we conclude that the Batmobile character is the property of DC, and Towle infringed upon DC's property rights when he produced unauthorized derivative works of the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 television show and the 1989 motion picture."
The opinion cites legal cases involving James Bond, Godzilla, and Eleanor from Gone in 60 Seconds for legal precedent. The Batombile is said to have had enough consistent "physical as well as conceptual qualities" across all of its iterations to grant it protection under the law.
"In addition to its status as 'a highly-interactive vehicle, equipped with high-tech gadgets and weaponry used to aid Batman in fighting crime,' the Batmobile is almost always bat-like in appearance, with a bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems on the vehicle," writes Ikuta. "This bat-like appearance has been a consistent theme throughout the comic books, television series, and motion picture, even though the precise nature of the bat-like characteristics have changed from time to time."
(via The Hollywood Reporter)