(CN) – The daughter of comic book legend Stan Lee filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles Thursday against the company responsible for marketing his image and intellectual properties, claiming that the founders of the company misappropriated his image and misled Lee into believing he had retained the rights to his name and likeness.
In her complaint, Joan Lee said her father’s business partners Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman aimed to “loot the assets” of Lee through their company POW! Entertainment.
“These ‘trusted’ partners achieved their dastardly goals with alacrity and through their betrayal of Stan Lee’s trust and lack of business and legal acumen they engineered the misappropriation and theft of Stan Lee’s intellectual property rights,” the complaint states.
Joan Lee says in the lawsuit that the company deceived and manipulated her father into “believing he had retained his creator rights and rights to his name and likeness.”
Stan Lee, who died in November 2018 at the age of 95, is responsible for many of Marvel Comics’ most popular superheroes, including Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Black Panther.
After having been fired from Marvel during its bankruptcy in 1998, Stan Lee formed Stan Lee Entertainment Inc. and hired Champion and Lieberman to help him run the company. According to Thursday’s lawsuit, Joan Lee claims that the two men purposely engineered the collapse of that business in order to form a new company with Stan Lee which would give them his intellectual property rights.
“Between 2001- 2017, they misled Stan into believing that he could and should reassign those rights to POW! Entertainment on no less than 6 occasions, each based on convincing Stan he had retained rights that he had in fact validly assigned to Stan Lee Entertainment,” the lawsuit states.
Following Stan Lee’s death, his daughter hired a forensic team of lawyers and accountants to investigate POW! Entertainment.
“In so doing, it was learned the extent to which the rights to Stan Lee’s intellectual property had been looted, muddied and entangled by POW! and a range of bad actors enabled by POW!” the complaint said. “In fact, it was discovered that POW! and Champion had purported to assign Stan Lee’s name and rights of publicity to Camsing International, a demonstrably criminal Chinese enterprise that appears to have taken a majority stake in POW!.”
Joan Lee claims that the company is falsely claiming the intellectual property rights to Stan Lee’s identity, stating that such rights exclusively belong to the original Stan Lee Entertainment company.
She is asking for a declaratory judgment of ownership of the intellectual property assets, rights to Stan Lee’s name and likeness and an injunction to immediately halt POW! Entertainment’s business use of the rights.
Joan Lee is represented by Jonathan Freund and Craig Huber of Freund Legal in Beverly Hills.