A shuttered Internet company co-founded by Stan Lee has hit Disney with a multi-billion dollar lawsuit over Marvel characters created by Lee, the Los Angeles Times reports. Stan Lee Media, which sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2000, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Colorado, claiming a 1998 contract assigns them the rights to Lee’s creations, including Spider-Man, the X-Men and most of the Avengers team. Lee is no longer involved with the company. The suit targets many of Marvel and parent company Disney’s recent box office successes, including Iron Man 2, Thor and The Avengers, as well as the licensed X-Men: First Class and The Amazing Spider-Man.
“The true facts are that Stan Lee Media Inc. owns the copyrights to Stan Lee’s creations,” reads the lawsuit. “Accordingly, Stan Lee Media Inc. is entitled to the billions of dollars of profits that have been kept by Defendant Disney.”
Documents state that Lee signed a contract on October 15th, 1998, assigning his past, current and future creations to Stan Lee Media. But two weeks later, Lee signed another contract with Marvel assigning them the same rights. Stan Lee Media claims their rights take precedence over Marvel’s contract, and that Disney never publicly recorded Marvel’s contract with Lee with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney bought Marvel at the end of 2009.