Ray Felix the little guy who dared to use the word Superhero

30 Jan, 2013

We often read or hear rumors about how a big conglomerate is suing a little guy, but rarely do we hear directly from the little guy. If we do, it’s a brief paragraph tucked away in the middle of an ocean of self aggrandizing, big business advertising that passes for news. Most would think that anyone standing up to a large corporation for what they believe is crazy. Well, Ray Felix, founder of the Bronx Heroes Con, entrepreneur, and comic artist is just such a person. He is currently locked into a trademark battle with Marvel and DC over the word “superhero”. For those of you not aware, the Big Two co-own the word superhero (super-hero, super hero, and all variations). It seems as silly as Microsoft and Apple co-owning the word “PC”. Now to set aside my opinion about the matter and the absurdity, the actual law regarding trademark is that if you do have a mark, and someone uses it it is your duty as the trademark owner to pursue the infringement on your mark. Failure to so means loss of your mark. So this is what Marvel/DC are alleging Ray Felix did.  In September of 2010 Ray received his first Cease and desist letter, and after that he still managed to get his mark, Cup O Java studio Comix A World Without Superheros, registered with trademark office.  April of 2012 Ray entered the ring with Titans of comics to dispute over the name Superhero. For more on this real life David and Goliath struggle, let’s talk to the little guy himself.

Ms.-Galaxy-pin-Up-2Ray, it’s a pleasure to have you here with us. I’d like to start by asking whether you knew the word “superhero” was trademarked before you got your first cease and desist letter? I was astounded to learn about this. It seems to be a generic word to describe a type of character or genre. Were you shocked?
I had heard in 2006 that Marvel and DC had jointly renewed their trademark on the word Super Hero.  Even still, jointly trademarking a word does not entitle any company or individual rights over the word as DC/ Marvel had proclaimed.  In their eyes they own every and any variation of the word regardless of spelling, variation in a statement or sentence in the English language or foreign.   Registration marks do not work that way.  It’s illegal and impractical.  Also, Registration gives you legal rights to word usage for a literal element.  Meaning a specific product which uses the actual word to sell a product(s).  Trademarks/ registered marks are never secure and can always be brought into opposition by any party which feels that it is infringing on their registration rights.

That’s right, a trademark is to help distinguish between products so as to not confuse the consumer. How did you react? And when did you get the cease and desist letter?
At first I laughed for a few months, then I realized they were not going to simply go away.  I was cautioned, if not threatened in a polite manner to drop my registration mark application for about six months.  I did not drop the application and my mark : “Cup O Java studio Comix A World Without Superheroes”, was published as a registered mark.

Front Cover1How has it been dealing with Marvel/DC lawyers?
At first they seemed to be friendly, but once I brought into question their limitations of the word Super Hero and presented my right to use my published mark, their lawyer began to grunt and lose patience in our conversations and then began making sharp remarks.

Did you trademark it before you got the letter?
It was published for about three months before the letter from Kenyon and Kenyon.

So what’s it like representing yourself and what’s the court process like? I imagine that in representing yourself, you’ve had to do a great deal of research. What did you discover?
Nothing so dramatic.  Everything was impersonal and took place through uploads and emails.

Certainly not the stuff of TV court dramas. What sort of updates are there in your case that you would you like tell us about?
Due to an upload error I was charged with Abandonment and then fought to get it reinstated.  I still have a challenge ahead of me because the judge found my answers to the office action as Argumentative.

GI-American-#1-COVER-BNow, you realize that most people reading this probably think you’re a sucker for punishment. What do you have to say to them?
I went public about the case at the last Mocca Con and was surprised that I was treated like a leper.  It was the first time I felt like an excommunicated Christian at a comic con.  Few voices were supportive. I got a few snickers and a few childish responses from so-called male adults.  It surprised me that people who spend their money at comic cons and read about heroes are so afraid and un-heroic in their own code to stand for something.  They’re conditioned puppets of corporate structures.

What I found more ironic is that Mocca is an Indie comic con, not a mainstream con.  I thought this is where the artists and writers are the power base of independent media in comics would exist.  The pulse of change and against the establishment.  This wasn’t the case.

I think the founders, board members and advisers of Mocca who I know personally are committed to alternate comics and readership.  I believe they are committed to being a part of the revolutionary spirit of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Unfortunately, the torch has not been passed to younger generations and their minds are more in tuned to making money and becoming another corporate structure that has little to do with creativity, literacy in comics or education.

The younger generations in the comics business are just hipsters who look like independent artists but have a corporate mindset of making themselves the next mainstream.  Kind of like when MTV created the term “Alternative music” which was the death of the New Wave art form.

All right Ray, thanks and all the best. We’ll keep an eye on your case as it could set a new legal precedent that could affect all comic creators. If there are any updates, please keep us informed. We’d love to hear about them. For more reading about what has to say here are some links to his blog and official website. 

Official Website

Learn more about the case

Shop

 

About the author

Miguel

Miguel Guerra was born in Madrid to an American father and a Spanish mother. His family soon moved to Alcalá de Henares, outside of Madrid, where drawing became an all consuming passion. His family later moved to the United States and Canada. He now resides in New York City. Has published with companies such Antarctic press and Heavy Metal. He is Creator of Samurai Elf, Alric the wild, and Super Corporate Heroes. In 2006 he founded Iberian Press with co-writer and co-creator Suzy Dias. In 2012 Iberian press shed it's name and became 7 robots.

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20 Comments

  1. January 30, 2013

    I enjoyed this interview, and am rooting Ray to win this battle. Though, it’s pretty obnoxious to read “The younger generations in the comics business are just hipsters who look like independent artists but have a corporate mindset of making themselves the next mainstream.”

    So, basically from his point of view, comics are over? There’s no one under a certain age in comics doing anything interesting?

    • Jacques Nyemb
      January 30, 2013

      Thanks Jed for commenting! Here at Crisp Comics we share what is said, regardless our feelings about the subjects. We’ll see if we can get Ray to elaborate in this thread!

  2. January 30, 2013

    This is ridiculous and just blows my mind. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and fight this absurdity, Ray!

  3. January 30, 2013

    Good to know Ray Felix’s fight is finally getting some press. I actually remember him talking to me about this at MoCCA last year, and I was in full support of his stance then (and equally surprised to hear how many, and specifically who, wouldn’t talk to him about it). I’m glad to read he’s still pursuing it. Best of luck!

  4. January 30, 2013

    I’ll add one thing more. If you really want to know how messed up Trademark law is then check this out. http://www.freedomofexpression.us/trademark.html You guessed it Freedom of expression is trademarked.

  5. January 30, 2013

    Very Interesting article!!!

  6. February 01, 2013

    Comics are not over on the contrary, its a gateway towards other media. It always has been. Companies like the “big two” have defined comics as “Research Marketing” since I was a kid in the eighties. In my interview with Miguel, my comment was not to insult people who define themselves as “Hipsters”. Rather, it is my beckoning call to younger comic artists and fans to wake up. My hope is that people can aspire to being more political and socially conscious. The younger 20 somethings should not subscribe or allow to be defined as corporate American marketing tool. I feel the same way about the term “geek”, its just a label corporations use to categorize youth into a demographic so that they canto sell them shit. In my twenties, “Alternative” was another crap title I hated that Mtv coined. Fans called it “Rock” or “New Wave”. In the end no matter what you listen to, its just music. Labels are irritating. Transcend the labels and become an independent thinker and seeker.

  7. February 03, 2013

    The thing that DC and Marvels greed is it seems they’re goal is not to inspire anymore. A lot of artist start with they’re own Comic either called heroes or super heroes. I think they are going to far. They’re confronting people at Cons. The average vendor makes about less than $300 at a con. They are loading they’re hope for a future, so that’s there goal to stop others. Tattoo artist inspiring comic artist and writers. As far a I’m concern I love the genre, Marvel and DC comics have used artist and writers an thrown them to the wolves without the proper credit of continued work and so forth. I will work with Ray Felix and any other person or persons out there. Just cause of this greatness that these big shots forgot what they started and should continue. But they’ve become disheartened about the little aspiring artist and writers out there. An for you people that used to work for them and keep begging to work them and are ashamed to defend yourself, and people like Ray Felix. You should be ASHAMED! Because you never had love the genre, you just looked for the money and fame only.

  8. Joseph
    February 04, 2013

    Wasn’t Nietzsche who created that term in the first place ? This is such a idiotic law suit, and i feel for the man being sued….that would be the same as Apple tradermarking that word and sueing supermarkets and people for using it… Pointless and only comes to prove that both Dc and Marvel are no longer interested in inspire people and lost sight of what made who they are today, nowadays it’s all about profits…everywhere, no matter what.

  9. February 04, 2013

    What about anagrams that spell out the word Superhero? Are those covered? Specially Utilized Powered Entity Responsible for Helping Earthly Risk Opportunities. S.U.P.E.R.H.E.R.O.

  10. Paul Bonanno
    February 04, 2013

    Maybe the Shaw estate should sue DC comics for using the name Superman!

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