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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Like Hyborian Age, Rights to Conan Are Gone

(CN) - Stan Lee Media Inc. failed to convince the 9th Circuit this week that an illegal bankruptcy sale cost it the rights to Conan the Barbarian.

Conan Sales Co. had bought the intellectual property rights to the fictional warrior as part of the settlement approval order in conjunction with Stan Lee Media's 2001 bankruptcy proceeding. The Colorado-based company had gone under shortly after its famous namesake left over a salary dispute.

It challenged that settlement-approval order about a decade later in a federal complaint against Conan Sales Co. (CSC), Paradox Entertainment and others in Los Angeles.

Stan Lee Media Inc. (SLMI) claimed in court filings that Paradox's purchase of the rights to Conan was carried out by "self-dealing insiders of a bankrupt company who concealed conflicts of interest in order to take assets out of the bankruptcy estate without full and fair disclosure while creditors and shareholders received nothing."

Specifically the company argued that the sale took place after its former CEO Kenneth Williams had resigned, leaving the company without representation in the bankruptcy. Thereafter, the company's bookkeeper, Junko Kobayashi, and attorney Arthur Lieberman "administered the bankruptcy estate even though neither Lieberman or Kobayashi had legal authority to do so," the company claimed.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson dismissed the case, and the 9th Circuit affirmed in an unpublished memorandum on Monday.

"SLMI presented insufficient evidence that Kobayashi or Lieberman adversely dominated SLMI, or that any such adverse domination influenced an otherwise arms-length negotiation between CSC and the unsecured creditors' committee, both of which were represented by independent legal counsel," the ruling states.

The unanimous three-judge panel found that Kobayashi was authorized to represent the company, and that its shareholders were not entitled to notice of the sale.

Robert Howard created the Conan character and set him in the fictional Hyborian Age in 1932. Marvel published its first comic book on the hero in 1970, and Dark Horse Comics has been publishing its own Conan series for the last decade.

Stan Lee Media Inc. attorney Michael Wolk said he will seek an en banc rehearing in the 9th Circuit.

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