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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Superman’ Rights Fight Returns to 9th Circuit

PASADENA, Calif. (CN) - A case over the rights to the "Superman" franchise appeared once again before the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday.

Laura Siegel Larson, the daughter of franchise co-creator Jerome Siegel, filed a 2004 suit over a rights agreement that her father negotiated in 1938 with Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

Larson argued that there was no binding contract with Warner after she negotiated a settlement in 2001 granting her termination rights. The studio appealed after a federal judge found that the family deserved a share of the profits from the franchise.

But the Ninth Circuit ruled in January 2013 that Warner Bros. owns the character, finding that a decade-old letter by Siegel family attorney Marc Toberoff - dated Oct. 19, 2001, through which Jerome Siegel agreed to a 50 percent stake in the franchise - was sufficient to constitute a contract.

At Tuesday's hearing, the issue on the table was whether Larson was entitled to rescission of the agreement.

Toberoff and Warner's attorney Daniel Petrocelli disagreed on whether the 2001 letter said that the Siegels would transfer the "Superman" copyright to Warner - Petrocelli said it did, but Toberoff said it did not.

Larson's "admissions that she didn't think there was a deal," Petrocelli said, "would bar her ground for rescission."

"They didn't want to go near the concept of rescission because they didn't want to acknowledge the existence of a contract," he said.

"The whole point of the lawsuit that was brought was to get out of this deal by saying there was no deal. That was the definitive tactical strategy."

Toberoff said that he did not "think it's proper to speculate here when the prior panel was only dealing with contract formation," not contract construction.

The panel did not give an indication on how or when it intends to rule.

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